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

  • Maine law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also allow employees access to their personnel files, protect whistleblowers and allow wage discussions. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Maine permits preemployment credit checks, criminal checks and drug testing. 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 laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, payment of wages, pay statements, pay frequency and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Maine law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including family and medical leave, domestic violence leave, emergency responder leave, public health emergency leave and day of rest requirements. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Maine prohibits smoking in the workplace and texting while driving. Maine allows guns in parking lots, but an employer may prohibit weapons in the workplace. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Maine employers must comply with applicable final pay, job reference and mass layoff notification and severance pay requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Maine

Maine has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including broader antidiscrimination protections, a higher minimum wage and health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as credit checks and occupational safety.

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:

Fair Employment Practices

The Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA), which applies to all employers, prohibits an employer from discriminating on the basis of protected characteristics, such as:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • National origin;
  • Sex (including pregnancy and related medical conditions);
  • Sexual orientation (including gender identity or expression);
  • Ancestry;
  • Age (any age);
  • Physical or mental disability; and
  • A previous assertion of a Workers' Compensation claim or right.

The MHRA prohibits retaliation against a person who has:

  • Filed a charge of discrimination;
  • Participated in a discrimination proceeding; or
  • Opposed a violation of the MHRA.

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

The MHRA also prohibits harassment based on all protected classes, but has notice and posting requirements specific to sexual harassment. In addition, an employer with 15 or more employees must provide sexual harassment training to new employees and new supervisory and managerial employees.

Equal Pay

Maine's Equal Pay Law requires an employer to pay employees the same wages as other employees of the opposite sex for comparable work on jobs that have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility. An employer may, however, base pay differentials on:

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

Discussion of Wages

Under the Equal Pay Law, an employer may not prohibit an employee from disclosing his or her own wages or inquiring about another employee's wages if the purpose of the disclosure or inquiry is to enforce the rights provided by the law.

Access to Personnel Files

Current and former employees (or a designated representative) have the right to inspect and receive a copy of the employee's personnel records. One time per calendar year, employees may request and receive, at no charge, a copy of the file containing their personnel records. Employees may also request and receive a free copy of any records added to the file after the employer provided a copy of the file. An employer may charge employees for copying subsequently requested materials.

Whistleblower Protections

The Maine Whistleblowers' Protection Act (MWPA) prohibits retaliation against employees who engage in protected activities, including but not limited to:

  • Reporting a violation (either internally or externally);
  • Reporting a condition or practice that constitutes a risk to health or safety;
  • Participating in an investigation, hearing or inquiry held by a public body or court;
  • Refusing to carry out a directive to engage in any activity that would violate that law or that may result in serious injury or death, after seeking and being unable to obtain a correction from the employer; and
  • Reporting information regarding an act or omission that constitutes a deviation from the applicable standard of care for a patient by a health care employer.

Whistleblower protections generally are contingent on whether the employee first notified the employer and allowed it a reasonable opportunity to correct the issue.

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, HR Management: Maine, Employee Discipline: 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, HR Management: Federal and Employee Discipline: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Maine requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Credit Checks

The employment provisions of Maine's Fair Credit Reporting Act are consistent with the federal Fair Credit and Reporting Act.

Criminal Checks

An employer may obtain criminal history records, such as felony and misdemeanor convictions, as well as information about the applicant from the Maine sex offender registry. An employer that seeks this information should make the same request for all applicants. Maine does not limit the time period under which such information may be sought or considered.

An employer may access arrest or nonconviction records under limited circumstances.

Drug Testing

In order to conduct drug testing, an employer must either have a drug testing program that has been approved by the state or that tests employees as mandated under federal law.

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 and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in 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 $10.00 per hour.

Overtime

Nonexempt employees must be paid at an hourly rate equal to one and one-half times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The regular rate includes all earnings, bonuses, commissions and other compensation paid or due, but does not include any items excluded from the federal definition of regular rate under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

An employer generally may not require employees to work more than 80 hours of overtime in any consecutive two-week period. Exceptions apply.

Rest Breaks

Employees who work for more than six consecutive hours must be provided with the opportunity to take a 30-minute rest break, which may be paid or unpaid. 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.

Rest breaks may be used as unpaid mealtime, but only if the employee is completely relieved from duty.

Breastfeeding Breaks

Nursing mothers who want to express milk must be:

  • Provided with adequate 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 any capacity that is hazardous, dangerous to life or limbs or injurious to their health or morals. 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, Maine Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? 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.

Payment of Wages

Maine employers may pay wages in cash, or by checks that can be drawn on banks and that are convertible into cash on demand. Employees may be paid by direct deposit or with an ATM card or other means of electronic transfer under certain conditions.

Pay Frequency

A Maine employer must pay full wages to nonexempt employees on an established pay day that occurs at regular intervals of no more than 16 days.

Pay Statements

With each wage payment, an employer must provide each employee with a statement that clearly shows:

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

Wage Deductions

An employer may make pay deductions for a number of specified reasons, e.g., loans, debts or salary advances; purchases of employer merchandise; employer-provided benefits; or the cost to purchase and maintain uniforms in some circumstances. Deductions may not be made for cash or inventory shortages, dishonored checks or credit cards or customer damage.

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, Payment of Wages: Maine and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal and Payment of Wages: Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Key Maine requirements impacting time off and leaves of absence are:

Family and Medical Leave

The Maine Family and Medical Leave Act (MFMLA) applies to an employer with 15 or more employees at one location. Eligible employees may take up to 10 weeks of unpaid leave in two years for the following reasons:

  • Birth of a child;
  • Adoption of a child 16 years or younger;
  • Serious illness of the employee or a covered family member;
  • Organ donation; and
  • Death or serious health condition of a covered family member that occurs while he or she is on active military duty.

Other Time Off Requirements Affecting Maine Employers

In addition to the MFMLA, a Maine employer is also required to comply with other leave and time off laws, such as:

  • Family military leave (covering employers with 15 or more employees);
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Domestic violence leave;
  • State legislators leave (covering employers with six or more employees);
  • Emergency responder leave;
  • Public health emergency leave;
  • Military leave; and
  • Day of rest requirements.

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 time off and leave of absence practices in Maine can be found in the Maine Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: Maine, Jury Duty: Maine, USERRA: Maine, Other Leaves: Maine, Hours Worked: Maine, Maine Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal, USERRA: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and Hours Worked: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Maine requirements impacting health and safety are:

Smoke-Free Workplace

Maine bans smoking in all enclosed areas of public places, as well as in all workplaces. An employer 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.

Weapons in the Workplace

In Maine, an employer may not prohibit an employee with a valid concealed firearms permit from storing a weapon in a locked, privately owned vehicle in an employee designated parking area, such as a parking lot or garage. The firearm must be locked in the vehicle and hidden from plain sight. The law does not prevent employers from prohibiting the possession of firearms and other weapons inside the workplace or in company-owned vehicles.

Safe Driving Practices

Maine bans texting while driving for all drivers. Commercial drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone or texting while driving.

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, HR and Workplace Safety: Maine, Employee Health: Maine, Workplace Security: Maine, Maine Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal, Employee Health: Federal and Workplace Security: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Maine requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

An employee who leaves employment, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, must generally be paid in full no later than the employee's next regular pay day or within two weeks after the employee demands final payment.

Any vacation pay earned must generally be paid to a terminated employee in full no later than the employee's next regular pay day.

References

An employer that provides job references is presumed to be acting in good faith and is generally immune from civil liability, unless it knowingly and maliciously discloses false or misleading information.

Mass Layoff Notifications

Under the Maine Severance Pay Act (MSPA), if an employer that has 100 or more employees closes or conducts a mass layoff at a covered establishment, it must provide at least 60 days' advance notice to employees, union representatives (if any), the state and the municipality where the establishment is located.

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 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, Employee Communications: Maine, Involuntary Terminations: Maine and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Maine? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal, Employee Communications: Federal and Involuntary Terminations: Federal.