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Maine Legislature sends Paid Sick Leave bill to Governor for Signature

by Sarah Skillin Woodard

The Maine Legislature is poised to enact a historic bill that would require paid leave for employees of any business or nonprofit with 11 or more employees. The bill, LD 369, was amended in the Labor and Housing Committee at the urging of Governor Mills. The original bill would have established paid sick leave and would have applied to employers with 6 or more employees, while the amended bill establishes a broader category of paid leave and ups the threshold to 11 employees.

Here are some key details:

  • The paid leave requirement kicks in if an employer has 11 or more employees for more than 120 days in a calendar year. Nonprofits receive no special exemptions and are treated just like businesses.
  • An employee accrues one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year.
  • Accrual begins at the start of employment, but the employer can choose to delay use of the leave until an employee has been employed for at least 120 days during a one-year period.
  • Except for sudden illnesses or emergencies, the employee must give her employer reasonable notice before taking paid leave.
  • Municipalities may not enact separate paid leave ordinances.
  • In the coming year, expect the Maine Department of Labor to issue rules fleshing out more details.
  • The act takes effect on January 1, 2021.

The paid leave statute will accelerate a general trend of employers converting from separate vacation and sick leave policies to a unified paid leave policy. Employers and employees alike report more satisfaction with unified policies. They tend to be administratively simpler, while employees do not feel pressure to lie about taking “sick” days for other purposes.

The vast majority of Maine nonprofits already provide more than 40 hours of paid vacation and/or sick leave so the bill will not cause radical changes in the sector. However, nonprofit employers with 11 or more employees will want to review their employment handbooks to ensure compliance with the law. Furthermore, even employers with 10 or fewer employees should consider switching to a unified paid leave policy, in order to remain competitive and consistent with larger organizations.

Source: Rob Levin, Attorney-at-Law

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