October 25, 2023
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In addition to the passage of its PFML law, and as part of its 131st legislative session, Maine has passed several other laws that either create new rights for employees or substantially amend existing laws that affect employee rights. As part of the First Special Session, the following laws are set to take effect on October 25, 2023, unless otherwise indicated, so employers should work to revise their policies and practices as soon as practicable.
Increases to the Maine Human Rights Act Damage Caps. L.D. 1423 will increase the limits on potential compensatory and punitive damages awards for violations of Maine’s Human Rights Act (MHRA). The new legislation follows recent case law in Maine and the First Circuit that allows “stacking” of state and federal statutory damages, meaning plaintiffs may be able to recover damages under both federal and state law for the same offense. The increases to the maximum limits on compensatory and punitive damages under the MHRA are as follows:
- 15-100 Employees: $100,000, raised from $50,000 (potentially $150,000 if combined with the federal cap)
- 101-200 Employees: $300,000, raised from $100,000 (potentially $400,000 if combined with the federal cap)
- 201-500 Employees: $500,000, raised from $300,000 (potentially $700,000 if combined with the federal cap)
- More than 501 Employees: $1 million, raised from $500,000 (potentially $1.3 million if combined with the federal cap)
Right to Sue Letters Under the Maine Human Rights Act. L.D. 1001 will allow the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to issue a right-to-sue letter without request from the complainant. The MHRC may now issue a right-to-sue letter on or after the 181st day following the filing of a complaint with the Commission. The amended law further provides that plaintiffs may not be awarded attorneys’ fees, civil penal damages, or compensatory and punitive damages under the MHRA, unless they establish that they received a right-to-sue letter from the MHRC before filing the civil action.
Maine Equal Pay Law. L.D. 1703 expands the Maine Equal Pay Law to prohibit discrimination in pay on the basis of race, in addition to the law’s previous prohibition of sex-based pay discrimination. The amended legislation prohibits employers from discriminating “between employees in the same establishment on the basis of race” by paying an employee less than what the employer pays to any other employee in the state “of another race for comparable work on jobs that have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort[,] and responsibility.”
Maine Workers’ Compensation Act. L.D. 53, enacted without the Governor’s signature, amends Maine’s workers’ compensation law to provide that an employee, supervisor, or officer or director of an employer may be individually liable for sexual harassment, sexual assault or an intentional tort related to sexual harassment or sexual assault. The law also provides that workers’ compensation remains the exclusive remedy for intentional torts with respect to an employer itself, including intentional torts related to sexual harassment or assault like intentional infliction of emotional distress or invasion of privacy. However, now individuals may also be liable for such torts.
Tip Pooling for Restaurant Workers. L.D. 903 will allow non-tipped restaurant employees, including non-service employees such as dishwashers and cooks, to participate in tip-pooling, as long as all participating employees are being paid the minimum hourly wage and employers are not using the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tip credit.
Noncompete Ban for Maine Veterinarians. L.D. 688 will prohibit employers from requiring or permitting licensed veterinarian employees from entering into noncompete agreements, unless the veterinarian employee has an ownership interest in the business. The law will apply retroactively, prohibiting courts from enforcing such noncompete agreements entered into prior to the effective date of the legislation.
Limits on Mandatory Employer-Sponsored Meetings. L.D. 1756 prohibits an employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee because the employee declines to attend or to participate in an employer-sponsored meeting or declines to receive or listen to a communication from the employer if the employer’s purpose is to communicate the opinion of the employer about religious or political matters. The law defines “political matters” as “matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, proposals to change legislation, proposals to change rules or regulations, proposals to change public policy and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal or labor organization.” Additionally, the law defines “religious matters” as “matters relating to religious belief, affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association.” The law contains limited exemptions for religious employers.
- Update policies and train appropriate personnel on equal pay requirements.
- Review and revise wage and hour policies pertaining to tipped and non-tipped workers, if applicable.
- Review noncompete agreements with legal counsel to ensure compliance.
- Review policies and procedures pertaining to employer-sponsored events to ensure compliance with updated restrictions.
- Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.
Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2023 ManagEase