Last month, Maine’s Governor, Janet Mills, signed into law an act authorizing earned employee leave for any reason (S.P. 110 - L.D. 369). The act, which will take effect on January 1, 2021, makes Maine the first state to require that private employers provide earned paid leave to their employees, as opposed to only providing paid sick leave. Soon, private employers in Maine that employ ten or more employees for more than 120 days in a calendar year will be required to provide one hour of paid leave for every forty hours worked by the employee, up to a maximum of forty earned hours of paid leave per calendar year. Additionally, the law authorizes qualified employees to use the earned paid leave for any reason after the first 120 days of their employment. Employers that fail to comply with the law can be liable for up to $1,000.00 per violation. Maine’s act specifically exempts seasonal businesses, employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, and employers that employ less than ten employees or that employ employees for less than 120 days per calendar year. Key provisions of the act also include: a requirement that if an employee takes earned leave, the employee must be paid at the same pay rate the employee received immediately prior to taking the earned; and a requirement that the taking of earned paid leave “may not result in the loss of any employee benefits accrued” and “may not affect the employee's right to health insurance benefits on the same terms and conditions as applicable to similarly situated employees.” While it is clear that Maine employers will be directly impacted by this new law, it remains to be seen whether Maine’s new law will encourage other states to follow their example.
Jennifer Hutchins is an attorney in the Firm’s Labor and Employment & Business Litigation Practice Groups. If you have any questions or concerns about this issue or any other matter, please contact Jennifer directly at 813-223-1099.