Looking for something(s) to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Season? Look no further than this addition of Employment Wisdom on the Go (EWOTG), which will get you up-to-speed and up-to-date on several new employment laws recently passed by the Maine Legislature that could affect your business. Several of these changes to the law, which became effective on October 18, 2021, could require changes to your policies and employee handbooks. Here is a brief overview:
The Act to Include Grandparents under Maine’s Family Medical Leave Law is relatively self-explanatory. Grandparents are now included under the Maine family medical leave law as individuals entitled to take leave to care for a grandchild (which would include a domestic partner’s grandchild) who has a serious health condition.
The Act Regarding Absence from Work from Emergency Response clarifies that, upon receiving notice of an employee’s status as a firefighter or emergency medical services person, an employer may designate that employee as “essential to the employer’s operations” when the absence of the employee would cause significant disruption of the business. (Note: The designation as essential must be made in writing and signed by both the employee and employer.)
The Act to Ensure Safety Across Maine’s Construction Industry mandates that all craft workers (defined in the law) in the construction of public works must complete a construction safety training program that uses a curriculum approved by the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and is at least 10 hours in duration. An employer must submit a signed statement of compliance that each craft worker has completed the required training each month, and the law requires that “a contractor or subcontractor shall post in a conspicuous location at each job site a signed affidavit that the contractor or subcontractor has met the requirements of [the law].”
The Act to Amend the Laws Governing Employer Recovery of Overcompensation Paid to an Employee adds “paid leave” to the category of items that cannot be considered in a determination of overcompensation. Also, the law changes the maximum withholding per pay period from 10% to 5% of the employee’s net pay, and adds a recoupment time limit of 3-years (“An employer who has overcompensated an employee through employer error may not recover more than the amount of overcompensation paid to that employee in the 3 years preceding the date of discovery of the overcompensation.”).
The Act to Prohibit and Employer from Charging an Employee for Direct Deposit of Wages is again pretty self-explanatory, and prohibits employers from charging any fee for payment of wages for direct deposit into an employee’s account at an accredited financial institution.
The Act Relating to Fair Chance in Employment garnered a great deal of press as it weaved its way through the Legislature. Now effective, the law requires that job applications and advertisements for positions must not inquire about an applicant’s criminal history and cannot state individuals with a criminal record need not apply. The law does not prevent an employer from inquiring about a prospective employee’s criminal history record information during an interview (or once the prospective employee has been determined otherwise qualified for the position), but specifies that an employer that inquires about a prospective employee’s criminal history record information “shall afford to the prospective employee the opportunity to explain the information and the circumstances regarding any convictions, including post-conviction rehabilitation.” There are a few exceptions to the law. For example, if federal or state law mandates job disqualification for an applicant with a criminal conviction – or a conviction for a certain type of offence – an employer may still be entitled (and indeed required) to run a criminal history background check.
Finally, the Act to Update the Classification of Service Employees reminds employers that Maine’s minimum wage will increase as of January 1, 2022 to $12.75 per hour, which means that the new minimum salary threshold for exempt employees will be $735.59 per week, or $38,251 per year. The new “tip wage,” will also increase to $6.38 per hour in 2022, which means that service employees must receive at least a direct wage of $6.38 per hour. Importantly, employers of service employees must be able to show that their employees receive the minimum wage of $12.75 per hour when the direct wage and tips are combined.
You are encouraged to reach out to counsel to discuss the best way to implement these changes and comply with new requirements. There are always nuances in the law that even EWOTG cannot fully cover. For more information from the Maine Bureau of Labor Standard, and to read the text of these laws (including the exact words that changed), you can visit MDOL: 2021 Labor Law Update (maine.gov).
This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of employment and corporate law. Amy Dieterich, Jordan Payne Hay, and James F. Pross are employment and labor law attorneys; others at the firm handle business and other matters. Since 1853, Skelton Taintor & Abbott has provided a full range of high-quality legal services to the individuals, companies, and municipalities of Maine. The firm’s main office is located in Lewiston and in January 2019, a mid-coast office was opened in Waldoboro.