Labor and Employment Law Overview: Maine

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • State law establishes protected classes not recognized under federal law. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Maine permits an employer to conduct background checks on prospective employees. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Maine, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, rest breaks, breastfeeding breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Maine has a few laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, how often employees must be paid and what may be deducted from paychecks. See Pay and Benefits.
  • A Maine employer may be required to provide employees with certain leaves of absence in addition to those provided under federal law. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Maine prohibits smoking in the workplace. See Health and Safety.
  • State law dictates the manner and timing of a terminated employee's final paycheck, and whether the employer must offer severance pay. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Maine

Maine is generally considered to be an employee-friendly state.

Select Maine employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Maine requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Maine Human Rights Act

Maine's antidiscrimination law, the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA), applies to all employers, The MHRA establishes protected classes not recognized under federal antidiscrimination laws, and prohibits an employer from discriminating on the basis of:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • National origin;
  • Sex (including pregnancy and related medical conditions);
  • Sexual orientation (actual or perceived, including gender identity or expression);
  • Ancestry;
  • Age (legal working age or older); and
  • Physical or mental disability.

The MHRA also prohibits:

  • Discrimination because an employee filed a claim or asserted a right against a prior employer under the Maine Workers' Compensation Act;
  • Retaliation under the Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act; and
  • Retaliation against a person who has:
    • Filed a charge of discrimination;
    • Participated in a discrimination proceeding; or
    • Opposed a violation of the Maine Human Rights Act.

Sexual Harassment

The MHRA restrictions and requirements regarding sexual harassment are stricter than that of federal law.

In addition to federal posting requirements, an employer must post state-required notices pertaining to discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. Additionally, an employer in Maine must annually provide all employees with an individual written notice that includes, at a minimum:

  • The illegality of sexual harassment;
  • The definition of sexual harassment under state law;
  • A description of sexual harassment, utilizing examples;
  • The internal complaint process available to the employee;
  • The legal recourse and complaint process available through the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC);
  • Directions on how to contact the MHRC; and
  • Protection against retaliation.

An employer with 15 or more employees must educate and train new employees within one year of employees' date of hire, and must conduct additional training for supervisory and managerial employees within one year of beginning employment.

Genetic Information Discrimination

An employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee or applicant on the basis of the individual's:

  • Genetic information;
  • Refusal to submit to genetic testing or to make genetic test results available; and
  • Receipt of genetic testing or counseling, unless a bona fide occupational qualification exists.

Wage Discrimination

Maine's Equal Pay Law requires an employer to pay employees the same wages as other employees of the opposite sex for comparable work. An employer may, however, base pay differentials on:

  • Seniority systems;
  • Merit systems; or
  • Shift differentials.

Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act

The Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act (MWPA) makes it illegal to fire, threaten or retaliate against workers or treat them differently because they:

  • Report a violation of the law;
  • Report a medical error (health care workers only);
  • Report an employer's action that risks another individual's health or safety;
  • Refuse to take an action that will endanger their own or someone else's life if they have asked their employer to correct it; or
  • Are involved in a government investigation or hearing.

An employee is protected by the MWPA only if the employee:

  • Tells a supervisor about the problem and allows a reasonable time for it to be corrected; or
  • Has good reason to believe that the employer will not correct the problem.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Maine can be found in the Maine Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Maine, EEO - Discrimination: Maine, EEO - Harassment: Maine, EEO - Retaliation: Maine, Employee Discipline: Maine, Involuntary Terminations: Maine, Maine Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal, Employee Discipline: Federal and Involuntary Terminations: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Maine law permits an employer to conduct background checks on applicants according to certain criteria, and in some instances, background checks are mandatory (e.g., law enforcement officers, public school teachers). Any conditional employment offer should provide written notice that a background check may be required prior to final employment, and the employer should obtain the applicant's written consent to conduct all aspects of the background check.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Maine can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Maine. Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Maine requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Maine is $7.50 per hour. A separate minimum wage rate exists for tipped employees.

An employer may not make a special contract or agreement with an employee to exempt that employee from minimum wage requirements.

Overtime

Most employers may not require employees to work more than 80 hours of overtime in any consecutive two-week period. There are several exceptions to this, including work performed in response to a state-declared emergency, employees whose work is necessary to public health or safety, and certain industry-specific exceptions.

An employer may not make a special contract or agreement with an employee to exempt that employee from overtime restrictions.

Rest Breaks

Most employees must be offered a 30-minute paid or unpaid rest break after six consecutive hours of work. Exceptions may be made under certain circumstances, such as when there is an emergency in which property, life or public safety or health is at risk.

Breastfeeding Breaks

Nursing mothers who want to express milk must be:

  • Provided with unpaid break time for that purpose; or
  • Permitted to use their paid break or meal time for that purpose.

The employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a clean room or location (other than a bathroom) for an employee to express milk.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Maine restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Maine prohibits all minors from working in the following occupations:

  • Manufacturing and storing explosives;
  • Motor vehicle driving on public roadways and outside helper;
  • All mining occupations;
  • Power-driven:
    • Woodworking machines;
    • Hoisting apparatus;
    • Metal forming, punching and shearing machines;
    • Paper products machines; and
    • Circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears;
  • Slaughtering or meat packing, processing or rendering;
  • Manufacturing brick, tile and kindred products;
  • Wrecking and demolition occupations;
  • Roofing operations;
  • Excavation operations;
  • All occupations in places having nude entertainment;
  • Working alone in a cash-based business;
  • In direct contact with pesticides;
  • Placement at the scene of a fire, explosion or other emergency situation;
  • Gas or electric welding, brazing, burning or cutting;
  • Working in a confined space requiring a permit entry system; and
  • Working at heights requiring special precautions or personal protective equipment.

Additional occupations are prohibited for minors under 16 years of age.

When school is in session, 16- and 17-year-olds enrolled in school generally may not work:

  • During school hours;
  • More than 24 hours in any week (50 hours when school is not in session);
  • More than six hours in any day (10 hours when school is not in session);
  • More than six consecutive days;
  • After 10:15 p.m. on a day preceding a school day;
  • After 12:00 midnight on a day that does not precede a school day;
  • Before 7:00 a.m. on a school day; or
  • Before 5:00 a.m. on a nonschool day.

When school is in session, minors ages 15 and younger generally may not work:

  • During school hours;
  • More than 18 hours in any week (40 hours when school is not in session);
  • More than three hours in any day (eight hours when school is not in session);
  • More than six consecutive days; or
  • Between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. (between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. during summer vacation).

An employer must obtain and keep on file a work permit before employing any minor under 16 years of age.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Maine can be found in the Maine Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Maine, Overtime: Maine, Hours Worked: Maine, Child Labor: Maine and Maine Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters. Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Maine requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

Maine's health care continuation law covers employers with fewer than 20 employees. It provides up to 12 months of continuation coverage if group health insurance is terminated because the member or employee:

  • Was temporarily laid off; or
  • Lost employment as a result of an injury or disease that the employee claims is compensable under workers' compensation.

Paydays

An employer in Maine must pay employees in full on an established payday that occurs at regular intervals of no more than 16 days.

Pay Statements

An employer must provide each employee with a statement that clearly shows:

  • The date of the pay period;
  • The hours worked by the employee;
  • Total earnings; and
  • Itemized deductions.

If an employer pays employees by direct deposit or other electronic method, it must provide each employee with an accurate record of the transfer, including the pay period date, hours worked, total earnings and itemized deductions. If this record is provided electronically, the employer must provide the employees with a way to readily access the information and print it at no cost to the employee.

Wage Deductions

An employer may make pay deductions for a number of specified reasons, e.g., loans, debts or salary advances; rent or utility expenses; or the cost to purchase and maintain uniforms in some circumstances.

An employer may deduct up to 10 percent of an employee's net wages to account for overcompensation resulting from the employer's error. If the employee voluntarily terminates employment, the employer may deduct the full amount of the overcompensation from the employee's final paycheck.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Maine can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Maine and Payment of Wages: Maine. Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal and Payment of Wages: Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Key Maine requirements impacting attendance and leave are:

Maine's Family and Medical Leave Act

Maine's Family and Medical Leave Act (MFMLA) is broader in application than the federal FMLA in several ways. Under the MFMLA, an employee who has worked for the last 12 months at a workplace with 15 or more employees at one location may take up to 10 weeks of unpaid leave in two years for the following reasons:

  • Birth or adoption of a child or domestic partner's child;
  • Serious illness of the employee or an immediate family member, including a domestic partner;
  • Organ donation;
  • Death or serious health condition of the employee's spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, if it occurs while the spouse, domestic partner, parent or child is on active military duty; or
  • Serious illness or death of a sibling who shares joint living and financial arrangements with the worker.

Family Sick Leave

Maine's family sick leave law applies to an employer with 25 or more employees. If the employer's policy provides for paid time off, employees must be allowed to use up to 40 hours in a 12-month period to care for an immediate family member (i.e., child, spouse or parent) who is ill.

Other Leave Laws Affecting Maine Employers

In addition to the MFMLA and family sick leave law, a Maine employer is also required to comply with additional leave laws including:

  • Family military leave (covering employers with 15 or more employees);
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Leave for victims of domestic violence;
  • Leave for state legislators (covering employers with six or more employees);
  • Emergency responder leave;
  • Public health emergency leave; and
  • Military leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Maine can be found in the Maine Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: Maine, Jury Duty: Maine, USERRA: Maine, Other Leaves: Maine and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal, USERRA: Federal and Other Leaves: Federal.

Health and Safety

Maine has bans smoking in all enclosed areas of public places, as well as in all workplaces. Workplaces with one or more employee fall under the ban. To comply, employers must create a written policy on smoking that defines areas where smoking is prohibited. If the employer opts to provide a designated smoking area, the location must be such that smoke does not infiltrate the building through entryways, vents or doorways. No smoking may occur within 20 feet of exits, entrances or ventilation systems. The employer must post the policy and appropriate signage.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in Maine can be found in the Maine Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: Maine and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Maine requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Paycheck

An employee who leaves a job must be paid in full on the next regular payday or within two weeks, whichever is earlier. The full amount of any overcompensation may be deducted from the final paycheck, with or without the employee's consent. Earned vacation pay is due at the same time. Earned vacation pay refers to any pay accrued under the employer's policies.

Maine Severance Pay Act

Under the Maine Severance Pay Act (MSPA), an employer that has 100 or more employees may have to provide severance pay to certain employees, if it closes a covered establishment or conducts a mass layoff at a covered establishment.

Severance must be paid at a rate of one week of pay for each year the employee worked for the employer, with partial pay for any partial year. Severance does not need to be paid if:

  • An employee worked for the employer for fewer than three years;
  • An employee has accepted new employment with the employer in another location; or
  • The closure or layoff is due to a physical calamity or final order of a government agency.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Maine can be found in Payment of Wages: Maine, Involuntary Terminations: Maine and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Involuntary Terminations: Federal.