Maine Significantly Expands Employment Laws

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 23, 2019

While Maine may be best known for its lobster, coastline and numerous lighthouses, it was a host of employment law changes that placed a spotlight on the state last week.

Many new developments involving private employers recently took effect, including:

  • A new wage theft law;
  • A new noncompete agreement law;
  • Amended Mini-WARN law notice and penalty provisions;
  • New pregnancy accommodation requirements;
  • An expanded anti-discrimination law;
  • An amended equal pay law to restrict salary history inquiries; and
  • A new law banning the use of handheld mobile phone devices while driving.

The Act to Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability defines violations considered to be wage theft and strengthens enforcement provisions against employers. Any failure to pay timely wages (including at termination of employment), meet minimum wage and overtime requirements, or retain wage payment records is considered wage theft under Maine law.

Also effective September 19, Maine changed its law governing noncompete agreements and made it much more difficult for employers to enforce these contracts. It also extended the notice provision of the state's mini-WARN law from 60 to 90 days.

Maine also joined the rapidly expanding list of states to ban private employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history. The new law prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant's compensation history until after a job offer - including compensation - has been negotiated and made to the applicant.

In addition, the state extended existing protections for pregnant and nursing employees, making it unlawful for an employer to fail to provide a reasonable accommodation in the absence of an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations under the law include:

  • More frequent or longer breaks;
  • Temporary modifications of work schedules, seating or equipment;
  • Temporary relief from lifting requirements;
  • Temporary transfer to less strenuous or hazardous work; and
  • Lactation breaks.

Another new Maine law bans drivers from holding phones while driving. Employers must be aware of this distracted driving law to protect individuals as well as the organization, especially if an employer requires its employees to be on call.