By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
The Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) has adopted final rules for the state’s Earned Paid Leave Law, which ensures that employees of businesses with more than 10 employees can earn up to 40 hours of annual paid leave starting in January 2021.
It is estimated that the vast majority of Maine workers will be able to accrue and use paid leave under the law, with some estimates totaling 85 percent. Maine is the first state to permit using this leave for reasons outside of illness, as long as employees give their employer reasonable notice.
Earned Paid Leave Law. Maine Governor Janet Mills signed the Earned Paid Leave Law in May 2019, after working with a diverse group of stakeholders to create a consensus to support Maine workers who lacked paid leave. It received strong bipartisan support in the Legislature and an endorsement from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. The MDOL was directed to lead the law’s implementation.
The Earned Paid Leave Law applies to employers with more than 10 workers in Maine for 120 days or more in a calendar year, except for seasonal industries as defined in the statute. Employers covered by the law must provide employees with one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours they work, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid leave per year.
The law, "An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave" (Maine Revised Statutes, Title 26, Sec. 637) goes into effect on January 1, 2021. While MDOL was charged with adopting the rules to implement the statute, the MDOLs Bureau of Labor Standards is charged with its enforcement.
Final rules. The final rules provide clarity to employers, workers, and others on how the MDOL intends to implement the statute.
Notice requirement. Notably, the rules provide notice requirements, stating that, "absent an emergency, illness or other sudden necessity for taking earned paid leave, the employer may have a written policy requiring up to four weeks’ notice to the employer of the employee’s intent to use earned leave." Such notice requirement must be reasonable, recognizing that in some instances advance notice may not be feasible. Covered employees are to make a good faith effort to provide as much notice as is feasible in such instances.
Reasonable scheduling limits. Employers may also place reasonable limits on scheduling of earned paid leave for reasons other than an emergency, illness or other sudden necessity, to prevent undue hardship on the employer.
Incremental use. Employees would be able to use earned paid leave in increments of at least one hour, unless the employer allows smaller increments.
Forced leave. Employers cannot require an employee to use his or her accrued earned paid leave where the employer causes the employee to be unable to work, such as a business closing or when a shift is cancelled.
"The unprecedented crisis created by COVID-19 has made paid leave of crucial importance to Maine workers, many of whom have been forced to balance their family’s health and their economic security," said Commissioner Laura Fortman. "Maine is a national leader with this law, which will go far to help Maine workers today and will help support our workforce into the future."
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