Maine First State to Require Paid Leave for Any Reason

Personal Day

While many states are enacting paid family leave and/or paid sick time laws, Maine is the first state to take things a step further. Starting January 1, 2021, under L.D. 369, Maine employers will be required to provide their employees with paid personal leave under its Earned Employee Leave Act.  Based on the language of the current law, it appears this covers an employee’s desire to take leave any reason.

To comply with the law, employers should review and update their own PTO policies and ensure they meet the following stipulations of L.D. 369:

Paid Time Off Accruals

    • Employees will accrue PTO at a rate of not less than 1 hour per every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year.
    • There is no waiting period for employees to begin earning PTO (the accrual commences on their first day of work).  However, employers may require employees to work at least 120 days before being able to utilize PTO.

The law does not provide any guidance regarding carry over , “use it or lose it” or “PTO cash out” type policies, so employers are advised to review their policies with their legal counsel to ensure they are adhering to the law.  There are also no current criteria within the law for a set minimum number of hours or days an employee must use.

Exceptions for Employers

All Maine employers are required to comply with L.D. 369, except for the following:

    • Employers with 10 or fewer workers
    • Seasonal industry employers pursuant to 13 M.R.S. § 1251 (“…an industry in which…it is customary to operate only during a regularly recurring period or periods of less than 26 weeks in a calendar year.”)
    • Employees covered by collective bargaining agreements between January 1, 2021, and the expiration date of the agreements.

Permitted Use of Leave and Notice

The law is silent on what constitutes accepted uses of leave for employees and, as such, employees are allowed to take leave for any reason under the current law. Except in cases of “an emergency, illness or sudden necessity,” employees are required to give “reasonable notice” to their supervisor of their intent to take leave.  While there is no defined number of days that are deemed “reasonable notice,” the law does require the time to be “scheduled to prevent undue hardship on the employer as reasonably determined by the employer.”

Treatment of Employees on Leave

When an employee takes leave, employers are required to do the following:

    • Pay the employee at the same rate as the period prior to the employee taking leave.
    • Provide the same benefits to the employee in accordance with any existing policy the employer has regarding paid employee leave.
    • Employees should continue to be provided with any health benefits “on the same terms and conditions as applicable to similarly situated employees.”

Maintaining compliance by monitoring employee head counts, ensuring accurate computation of time worked and PTO accruals, tracking leave requests and determining eligibility is a monumental task. Any employer that fails to comply with the law can face fines of up to $1,000 per violation. Automating these functions with a comprehensive system like CheckmateHCM payroll and time and attendance solution, takes the guesswork and potential for human error in calculations out of the equation and ensures a smoother rollout and ongoing administration of the Maine Earned Employee Leave program for both the employer and its employees.

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Click here to view the Maine legislative information for L.D. 369.

Disclaimer: This article was written for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or other financial advice for an individual or specific company.  Each individual’s and entity’s specific legal, tax and/or financial circumstance can vary greatly. As such, we advise consulting with your attorney, CPA and/or other professional advisors to ensure you are following and complying with all necessary guidance and regulations based on your specific circumstances and/or internal policies, procedures and corporate structures.