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Maine’s New Paid Leave Law Grants Employees Paid Leave for Any Reason

Back in May, the Governor of Maine Governor signed “An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave” which requires employers to provide paid leave to employees.  The new law will take effect on January 1, 2021.  This law is the first to require employers to solely pay for this benefit – the other similar laws put the cost on the employee.  Washington falls somewhere in the middle requiring employers to bear 55 percent of the premium costs.

Leave for Any Reason

In another first, Maine’s law does not limit the purposes for which employees use the paid leave.  Rather than restricting the leave to caring for yourself or a family member during an illness like most paid leave laws, Maine appears to be mandating a run of the mill PTO (paid time off) policy on employers in the state.

Who is Covered?

Private employers with more than 10 employees in the usual and regular course of business for more than 120 days in any calendar year are covered by the law.  This includes both for-profit and non-profit businesses. While the law does not cover seasonal employees, it does cover both part-time and full-time workers. If employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, they will not receive leave under the new law until their agreement expires.

How is Leave Accrued?

Employees will accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year.  Accrual begins on the first day of employment, however, Employers are permitted to require new employees wait 120 days before taking the paid leave.  Leave is paid at the employee’s regular hourly rate.

Use it or Lose it

The law does not have a carryover provision.  We assume some additional guidance will be issued before the law takes effect, but it appears employees not taking the leave in a given year will not be entitled to roll it over into the following year.  The law also does not have a provision requiring unused leave to be paid out at the time employment terminates.

Required Notice

Whenever possible, the law requires employees to give “reasonable” notice of their intent to take leave.  The text of the law also suggests employers might be permitted to implement their own notice requirements, as “leave must be scheduled to prevent undue hardship on the employer as reasonably determined by the employer.” We expect additional guidance will clarify this. There is no requirement that employers provide notice of the right to take paid leave to employees.  There is also no posting requirement – yet.

What Now?

With 18 months still between Maine employers and the effective date of the law, there is much uncertainty about how the paid leave program will be implemented.  If you are an employer in the state, use this time wisely and of course, keep your eyes and ears open for updates.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area in any of the states where we are licensed, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.