Public Health Emergency Leave Handbook Statement: Maine

Author: Amy E. Mendenhall, Marissa L. Dragoo, Corinn Jackson, and Judith A. Paulson, Littler

When to Include This Statement

Maine employers should consider including this statement in their handbook to educate employees about the availability of leave during extreme public health emergencies and to encourage and demonstrate compliance with Maine law.

Customizable Handbook Statement

Public Health Emergency Leave

The Company will provide unpaid leave for caregivers and persons affected by an extreme public health emergency. For purposes of this policy, an "extreme public health emergency" is the occurrence or imminent threat of widespread exposure to a highly infectious or toxic agent that poses an imminent threat of substantial harm to the population of the state.

The Company will grant reasonable and necessary leave from work when an employee is unable to work because he or she:

  • Is under individual public health investigation, supervision or treatment related to an extreme public health emergency;
  • Is acting in accordance with a public health emergency order;
  • Is in quarantine or isolation or is subject to a control measure in accordance with extreme public health emergency information or direction issued to the public, a part of the public or one or more individuals;
  • Has been asked by the Company not to expose other individuals in the workplace to the extreme public health emergency threat; or
  • Is needed to provide care or assistance to the employee's spouse, domestic partner, parent or child (including a child for whom the employee is the legal guardian).

Leave may not be granted if:

  • The Company would sustain undue hardship from the employee's absence, including the need to downsize for legitimate reasons related to the impact of the extreme public health emergency on the operation of the business; or
  • The request for leave is not communicated to the Company within a reasonable time under the circumstances.

Leave will be granted for the duration of an extreme public health emergency and for a reasonable and necessary time period following the end of the extreme public health emergency for diseases or conditions that are contracted or exposures that occurred during the extreme public health emergency.

Upon the employee's return to work, the Company has the right to request and receive written documentation from a physician or public health official supporting the employee's leave.

Employees who take leave for an extreme public health emergency will not lose any benefits accrued before the date on which the leave began nor will their health insurance benefits be affected. For any leave that extends beyond the time period of the public health emergency, the Company will allow an employee to continue benefits at the employee's expense.

Guidance for Employers

  • Maine employers must grant employees reasonable and necessary leave from work, with or without pay, when an employee is unable to work because:
    • The employee is under an individual public health investigation, supervision or treatment related to an extreme public health emergency;
    • The employee is acting in accordance with an extreme public health emergency order;
    • The employee is in quarantine or isolation or is subject to a control measure in accordance with extreme public health emergency information or directions issued to the public or one or more individuals;
    • Of a direction given by the employer in response to its concern that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to the extreme public health emergency threat; or
    • The employee is needed to provide care or assistance to one or more of the following individuals: the employee's spouse or domestic partner, the employee's parent, the employee's child or a child for whom the employee is the legal guardian.
  • Leave must be for the duration of an extreme public health emergency and for a reasonable and necessary time period following the end of the extreme public health emergency for diseases or conditions that are contracted or exposures that occurred during the extreme public health emergency.
  • Upon an employee's return to work, an employer has the right to request and receive written documentation from a physician or public health official supporting the employee's leave.
  • The taking of leave may not result in the loss of any benefits accrued before the date on which the leave began and may not affect employees' right to health insurance benefits on the same terms and conditions as applicable to similarly situated employees. For any leave that extends beyond the time period of the emergency, employers must allow employees to continue benefits at the employees' expense. An employer and employee may negotiate for the employer to maintain benefits at the employer's expense for the duration or any portion of this extended leave.
  • It is important for employers to be aware of whether same-sex marriages (including those performed out-of-state) are recognized under applicable state law and/or whether partners in civil unions, domestic partnerships or other committed relationships are afforded rights similar to those of married spouses and then to provide leave benefits accordingly. This is a dynamic area of the law that can have varying implications for different types of federal and state leave. Consult with legal counsel to help determine whether and to what extent same-sex spouses or other same-sex partners are entitled to leave benefits and protections.
  • Supervisors should be trained regarding how to respond to requests for leave so that they do not take any adverse actions (e.g., termination, demotion) against employees who are eligible for leave and who request or take leave.