2009 Labor Law Update Bookmark and Share

September 22, 2009

The First Regular Session of the 124th Maine Legislature made a number of changes to Maine law concerning employment and workforce issues. The following summary includes highlights of many of those recent labor law changes. For more detailed information on these new laws, please call the Maine Department of Labor at (207) 623-7900.

Breastfeeding in the Workplace (Public Law 2009, Ch 84) Requires that all employers, including the State, make reasonable efforts to provide a clean room or other location, other than a bathroom, where an employee may express breast milk in privacy for up to 3 years following childbirth. The time used may be unpaid break time or paid break time or meal time at the discretion of the employer. An employer may not discriminate against an employee who chooses to express breast milk in the workplace.

Fair Pay (Public Law 2009, Ch 29)
States that an employer may not prohibit an employee from disclosing the employee’s own wages or from inquiring about another employee’s wages if the purpose of the disclosure or inquiry is to enforce the equal pay statute. The law also states that there is no obligation to disclose wages.

Severance Pay (Public Law 2009, Ch 305)
Redefines “physical calamity” and “week’s pay” in the laws governing severance pay. It clarifies that during Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings there is no right to severance pay unless the filing is later converted to a filing under Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. The law includes language regarding a mass layoff and directs an employer to report the expected duration of a layoff within 7 days to the Director of the Bureau of Labor Standards. The director shall, at least every 30 days, require the employer to update the employer’s report to determine whether the layoff constitutes a termination or relocation.

Substance Abuse Testing (Public Law 2009, Ch 133)
Provides that employers using substance abuse testing may use tests that have been recognized by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services as accurate and reliable, if the Maine Department of Health and Human Services does not have established cutoff levels or procedures for the particular test. (See the Federal Register, Volume 69, No. 71, sections 3.4 to 3.7 on pages 19697 and 19698)

Logging (Public Law 2009, Ch 381)
increases penalties for violations of the law that requires foreign bond workers in logging occupations who use equipment owned by their employer, to carry proof of such ownership in the equipment, and to show such proof to enforcement officials. This law also requires the Department of Conservation to provide assistance to the Department of Labor in enforcing the law.

Minimum Wage for Summer Camp Counselors (Public Law 2009, Ch 120)
Clarifies the minimum wage and overtime exemption for summer camp counselors. It states that counselors, junior counselors or counselors-in-training employed by organized camps licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and those employees under 18 years of age who work for nonprofit organized camps and similar seasonal recreation programs are exempt from the definition of employee under subchapter 3 of employment practice law.

Forestry and Farm Worker Safety (Public Law 2009, Ch 201)
Adds migrant and seasonal farm workers to the law providing protections for forestry workers. Farm labor contractors who are required to register under the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act are required to file their federal registration with the state Department of Labor listing a contact within the State. They are also required to provide first aid training, first aid kits and safe transportation for their workers. The law requires that employers of temporary logging workers provide proof of the employer’s ownership of logging equipment for any temporary alien worker, not just nonagricultural temporary laborers.