Maine Employee Rights Guide

Contents

Breaks
Child Labor
Closing or Relocating Workplaces
Collective Bargaining
Discrimination and Harassment
Domestic Violence
Drug Testing
Family and Medical Leave
Hiring and Firing
Nursing Mothers
Overtime
Pension and Health Benefits
Preference for Maine Workers and Contractors
Privacy
Required Posters
Safety and Health
Smoking
Unemployment Insurance
Wages
Whistleblowers Protection Act
Workers’ Compensation
Resources

Breaks

people at water cooler

In a business with three (3) or more employees working at one time, employees have the right to take a 30-minute break after six (6) hours of work unless there is a written agreement otherwise.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. "Does my employer have the right to say I can’t leave the building during my break?”
Yes.
2. “Does my employer have to pay me for the 30-minute break?”
No.

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Child Labor

Maine child labor laws cover when, where and how young people under 18 years old may work. Federal laws may differ. A Guide to Maine Laws Governing the Employment of Minors has more information about child labor laws.

Work Permit

Teenagers under 16 years old need a work permit in order to be employed (except in domestic or farm work), even if they work for their parents. To apply for a permit, the youth must bring proof of age and a job offer to the school superintendent’s office. The Maine Department of Labor must approve and issue the permit before the youth can begin work.

Work Hours for Teens*

16- and 17-Year-Olds (enrolled in school, including home-schooled)

Work hours (may work)

  • After 7 a.m. on a school day
  • After 5 a.m. on a nonschool day
  • Until 10:15 p.m. on a day before a school day
  • Until midnight if no school the next day
  • Minors under 17 may NOT work during school hours

Maximum hours (may work)

  • 6 hours on a school day;
  • 8 hours on the last school day of the week - there are some exceptions for co-op (work-study) students, and students with an alternative education plan with a work component.
  • 10 hours a day on weekends, holidays, vacations, teacher workshops
  • 24 hours a week in any week with 3 or more school days
  • 50 hours a week each week there are less than 3 scheduled school days or during 1st and last week of school year
  • May NOT work more than 6 days in a row

Minors Under 16 Years Old (approved work permit required)

Work hours (may work)

  • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during school year
  • Between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. during summer vacation only
  • May NOT work during school hours

maximum hours (may work)

  • 3 hours on school days, including Fridays
  • 8 hours on days with no school (weekends, holidays, vacations, storm days, etc.)
  • 18 hours in any week with one or more school days
  • 40 hours in a week with no school
  • May NOT work more than 6 days in a row

Prohibited Work

In Maine, no worker under 18 (in most instances) may:

    circular saw
  • Drive a motor vehicle on the job.
  • Use powered equipment like a circular saw, hoist, box crusher, meat slicer, paper-products machine, or woodworking machine.
  • Work in excavation, wrecking, demolition, manufacturing and storing explosives, or roofing.
  • Work alone in a cash-based business.
  • Work in confined spaces.
  • Work at heights.

In addition to the above, no one under 16 years old may:

  • Bake or cook on the job. (in most instances)
  • Work in dry cleaners, commercial laundries, or bakeries (except in sales or office work).
  • Perform warehouse or manufacturing work.
  • Work in freezers or meat coolers.
  • Work in most jobs at hotels, motels, and commercial places of amusement.
  • Load or unload a truck, railroad car or conveyor.
  • Work at any hazardous occupation.
  • Work without a work permit.
  • Operate power equipment including lawn mowers and cutting machines.
  • Operate any motorized vehicle, including golf carts.

These are partial lists. For more information, contact the Maine Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (207-623-7900, TTY Maine relay 711), or the U.S. Wage and Hour Office in New Hampshire (603-666-7716).

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Closing or Relocating Workplaces

WARN

If your company plans to close or move and has 100 or more workers, your employer must give you at least 60 days notice. (The Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, “WARN,” 29 U.S.C. § 2101)

Severance Pay

If a business with 100 or more employees closes or relocates more than 100 miles away, the business must notify the Maine Department of Labor or employees in advance. In many instances, employees who have worked at that business for three or more years must get severance pay. If the employee has to sue to get severance pay, he or she may get the legal costs back. (26 M.R.S.A. § 625-B)

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Collective Bargaining

Employees have a right to form or join unions.

The National Labor Relations Act gives workers in private companies the right to form unions and to bargain with employers.

The Maine Labor Relations Board regulates union activities in most public workplaces and some farming workplaces.

The Maine Strikebreaker law (26 M.R.S.A. § 851-856) stops employers from hiring strikebreakers during a labor dispute.

For more information, call:
Maine Labor Relations Bd.
90 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333
(207-287-2015)
(TTY 888-577-6690)

National Labor Relations Bd.
Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., Fed Bldg.
10 Causeway St., Room 601
Boston, MA 02222-1072
(617-565-6700)
(TTY 617-565-6470)
(Toll-Free 1-866-667-6572)
(Toll-Free TTY 1-866-315-6572)

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Discrimination and Harassment

Unlawful Discrimination

Employers must not discriminate against workers because of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, mental or physical disability, or sexual orientation. It is not legal for a person to be treated as unequal because he or she is in one of these groups. Everyone has a right to work in a place where there is no discrimination.

Disabilities

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12101) and the Maine Human Rights Act (5 M.R.S.A. §§ 4551-4660-A) protect workers who have disabilities. Employers may not discriminate against workers with disabilities in hiring or firing and must make reasonable accommodations for such workers.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment on the job is against the law. You have the right to work in a place free of sexual harassment. No one can make you put up with sexual comment or physical contact to keep a job. Laws that apply in your workplace are posted there. Take a look at the posters in your workplace so you will know where to find information if you need it.

See Required Workplace Posters

Here are some examples of sexual harassment:

  • unwelcome sexual advances
  • unwanted hugs, touching or kisses
  • suggestive or obscene remarks
  • requests for sexual favors
For more information, call the Maine Human Rights Commission (207-624-6290, TTY: Maine relay 711).

Here are some examples of sexual harassment:

  • unwelcome sexual advances
  • unwanted hugs, touching or kisses
  • suggestive or obscene remarks
  • requests for sexual favors

For more information, call the Maine Human Rights Commission (207-624-6290, TTY: Maine relay 711).

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Domestic Violence

Employment Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence

An employee who is a victim of domestic violence must be allowed time off from work with or without pay to prepare for and attend court proceedings; receive medical treatment; or obtain necessary services to remedy a crisis caused by domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The employee must request the time off. Leave must also be allowed if the employee’s child, parent or spouse is the victim.

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Drug Testing

You can be asked to take a drug test if Federal law requires it or if the company has a drug policy approved by the Maine Department of Labor.

Under the law, an employer can use a positive test result to:

  • refuse to hire someone
  • fire an employee (in some instances)
  • discipline an employee (in some instances)
  • change an employee’s work (in some instances)

Those who apply for jobs may be tested only if they are offered work or are placed on a waiting list for a job. Employers who test under the law must give those tested a copy of the policy prior to the test.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. “Can I say no to a drug test?”
Yes, but if you do so, your employer may have the right to legally fire you or to refuse to hire you.

2. “I tested positive, but I don’t agree with these results. What can I do?”
Your employer must tell you how you can appeal the result.

3. “Can I be fired for a positive drug test result?”
An employer may not fire an employee the first time he or she tests positive, but may do so if he or she tests positive more than once. Employers must offer employees who test positive six (6) months of rehabilitation. Employees can be fired if they refuse rehabilitation

4. “My employer uses breathalyzer testing for alcohol. Can they do that?”
Yes. Employers may test in this way whenever they wish.

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Family and Medical Leave

Employers with 15 or more workers and all public agencies must give up to 10 weeks of unpaid but job-protected leave, if:

  • a worker or the worker’s child, parent, spouse,
    domestic partner, domestic partner’s child, or worker’s sibling has a serious condition;
  • a child is born to the worker or domestic partner;
  • a child of 16 or less is placed for adoption with the worker or domestic partner;
  • the worker is donating an organ for a human organ transplant;
  • the worker’s spouse, domestic partner, parent or child, or sibling who is a member of the state military forces or U.S. Armed Forces dies or incurs a serious health condition while on active duty.

To get this leave, the employee must have worked for the company for at least 12 months in a row. The employee must be allowed to come back to the same job, or one like it, after the leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (29 U.S.C. § 2601) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid but job-protected leave to employees of public agencies as well as private employers who have 50 or more workers within 75 miles. To qualify, you must have worked for your employer at least 1,250 hours in the previous year.

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Family Sick Leave

If an employer’s policy offers paid leave (sick, vacation, compensatory), the employee must be allowed to use up to 40 hours in a 12-month period to care for an ill child, spouse or parent. For more information, call Maine Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (207-623-7900, (TTY Maine relay 711), or U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (603-666-7716).

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Hiring and Firing

Hiring

You cannot be denied a job or fired from a job because of:

  • race
  • religion
  • gender
  • place of birth
  • age
  • skin color
  • ancestry
  • disability
  • whistleblower;;
  • sexual orientation

Ending Employment

If you are fired, you can write your employer a certified letter asking why, and your employer must tell you in writing why you were fired within 15 days.

Your employer may not fire you because:

two people talking

  • of illegal discrimination
  • you refused to do an unsafe job
  • you reported an unsafe condition
  • you were called for jury duty
  • your wages were garnished
  • you filed a workers’ compensation claim

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. “Can I be fired without a good reason?”
Yes. An employer can fire an employee without notice or cause as long as you are not discriminated against. There may be a union agreement that says you can only be fired for certain reasons. In that case, the contract rule must be followed.

2. “What if my employer discriminated against me when I was fired?”
This is against the law if it is considered discrimination under
human rights law. If you think there was discrimination, call the Maine Human Rights Commission (207-624-6290, TTY 207-1-888-577-6690).

3. “When does my employer have to pay my last wages after I get done?”
Your employer must pay your wages plus any vacation pay due by the next regular pay day after your job ends (not more than two (2) weeks). You must go in person and request your pay on or after the regular pay date. If your employer will not pay, you can file a complaint with the Maine Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (207-623-7900, TTY Maine relay 711).

4. “How do I know if I have a right to severance pay?”
You sometimes have a right to severance pay if the company has moved 100 miles or more away or has shut down, and the company employed over 100 people during the year.

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Nursing Mothers

Nursing mothers must be provided with unpaid break time or be permitted to use their paid break or meal time to express milk. The employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a clean room or location, other than a bathroom, where the milk can be expressed.

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Overtime

Limits on Mandatory Overtime

An employer may not require an employee to work more than 80 hours of overtime in any consecutive two-week period. There are exceptions, such as emergency, essential services and salaried exempt employees; agricultural workers and others.

A nurse who has worked 12 mandatory hours may not be disciplined for refusing to work additional hours and must be allowed at least 10 hours off following any such period. (There are exceptions to this law.)

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Pension and Health Benefits

ERISA

Federal Law (ERISA at 29 U.S.C. § 1001) protects your benefit plans, including pension and health insurance. For more information, call U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits and Security Administration (1-866-275-7922, TTY 1-877-889-5627).

COBRA

Federal law (COBRA at 29 U.S.C. § 1161(a)) also gives you the right to have your medical insurance continued for 18 months after your employment ends, at your expense.
For more information, call U.S. Department of Labor Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (617-565-9600).

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Preference for Maine Workers and Contractors

State law (26 M.R.S.A. § 1301-1315) gives preference to Maine workers and contractors on state-funded construction jobs over $10,000. It also sets a prevailing minimum wage rate for construction projects for these jobs.

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Privacy

personnel filesYou have a right to review your entire personnel file, and the employer must provide you with a free copy once a year upon request.

Upon termination, the employer must provide any additional information added since a copy of the entire file was provided in that calendar year.

Employers may not use lie detectors as a condition of employment.

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Required Posters

Employers must display certain posters in the workplace where workers can see them. For more information about individual posters, visit the labor poster section of this website.

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Safety and Health

safety inspectorsEveryone wants a safe and healthy place to work.

Employers must make workplaces safe. Workers must follow health and safety rules.

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) looks out for health and safety in private workplaces.

The Maine Department of Labor checks public workplaces. If you work on a computer four (4) or more hours a day, a law requires that you have special training to help you operate your equipment safely.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. “Can I say ‘No’ to a job I think is unsafe?”
If you think the job could cause death or serious injury, you can refuse. You must tell your employer of the danger and ask that it be fixed.

2 “What do I do if my employer does not fix the hazard?”
If your employer does not act to fix the problem, report your concern to OSHA (for private companies) or the Maine Department of
Labor (for public work sites).

3 “What does Right to Know mean?”
You have a right to know if chemicals or other things that can cause harm are in the workplace. Your employer must tell you about these things and train you in their safe use.

The Maine Department of Labor has free safety and health information and training through the SafetyWorks! program (1-877-SAFE-345, 1-877-723-3345), TTY Maine relay 711.

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Smoking

All employers in Maine must have a written policy to protect the employer and the employee from secondhand tobacco smoke. Employers in Maine may only allow smoking outdoors, at least 20 feet from entryways, vents and doorways, and not in a location that allows smoke to circulate back into the building. (Public Law 2009, Ch. 300 and 22 M.R.S.A. 1580-A) Employers may ban smoking entirely. Employers may not discriminate against employees who use tobacco outside the course of employment.

For more information, call:
Maine Department of Health and Human Services
Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine
(207-287-4627, TTY 800-606-0215)

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Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment benefits come from taxes paid by employers on wages of their workers. These taxes are put in a special trust fund that is used solely to pay unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to be temporary to help people with basic needs while seeking new employment.

In many cases, unemployment benefits are available up to 26 weeks. The actual amount of benefits a person receives is based on wages earned during a specific time frame. People eligible for unemployment insurance must be:

  • Partially or totally unemployed;
  • Able and willing to work;
  • Willing to accept work they are able to do.

You can file a claim for unemployment insurance:

  • Online at www.file4UI.com - click on “File a New Claim or Reopen an Existing Claim”;
  • By telephone:; 1‑800-593-7660 (Option 1);
  • TTY (Deaf / Hard of Hearing) 1-888-457-8884.
  • Paper claim forms are available at your local CareerCenter;
  • You may use a telephone or computer, free of charge, at any CareerCenter to file a claim by telephone or online.

You will need to have the following information ready before you apply:

  1. Your social security number;
  2. The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of employers that you worked for during the last 18 months;
  3. When you started work;
  4. When you stopped work;
  5. Reason you are not working now.

You can file your weekly unemployment claims:

  • Online at www.file4UI.com - click on “File a Weekly Claim”;
  • By telephone at 1-800-593-7660 (Option 6).

To file an appeal of a Department Deputy’s Decision about unemployment benefits, use one of the following methods:

  • Internet at www.Maine.gov/labor/appeals - You will receive a confirmation of your appeal request.
  • Telephone:; (207) 621-5001;
  • TTY (Deaf/Hard of Hearing):; Maine relay 711;
  • Fax the appeal form to:; (207) 287-5949;
  • Deliver the appeal form to an office of the Maine Department of Labor;
    Mail the appeal form to the Division of Administrative Hearings, 30 SHS, Augusta, ME; 04333-0030.

The Division of Administrative Hearings will provide additional information about the appeal process once you file an appeal and also with the appeal decision.

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Wages

The minimum wage is $7.50 per hour. clock

  • Maine does not have a training wage or student wage below the minimum.
  • Tipped employees must be paid at least one-half minimum wage. If this rate plus tips for the week does not average the minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.
  • Employees receive overtime pay of 1½ times their hourly rate after 40 hours of work per week. This applies to most employees. A poster stating these requirements must be shown in the workplace.
  • Executive, administrative or professional employees are exempt from minimum wage and overtime. They must be paid a minimum weekly salary of $455.00.
  • Employers must pay wages in full to employees on an established day or date at regular intervals not to exceed 16 days.
  • Employees must be paid for the work performed. Employees who leave a job must be paid in full within a reasonable time.
  • Employers cannot deduct from an employee’s pay for things such as broken merchandise or bills not paid by customers.
  • Employers may not discriminate on the basis of gender by paying a rate less than the rate paid an employee of the opposite sex for comparable work.
  • Most of the wage laws do not apply to agriculture.
  • Employees must be notified of a decrease in hourly wages or salary at least one day prior to the change.
  • Employers may not discriminate against an employee for inquiring about, disclosing, comparing or otherwise discussing the employee's wages with others.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. “If a holiday occurs on a work day, does my employer have to pay overtime for working the holiday?”
No. An employer does not have to pay overtime for less than 40 hours a week worked.

2. “My employer changed my regular schedule and now says I have to work overtime. I wasn’t told this when I was hired. Is this legal?”
Yes. Employers have the right to change work schedules. They can require you to work overtime, but not in excess of 80 hours of actual overtime in any two-week period.

3. “Does my employer have to pay benefits like sick time, vacation or holidays?”
No. Paid benefits are extras. They are not required by law.

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Whistleblowers Protection Act

It is against the law (26 M.R.S.A. §§ 831-840) for an employer to fire or threaten you because:

  • you reported a law violation;
  • you reported a risk to health and safety;
  • you would not do something that was a danger to your life or to someone else’s;
  • you are part of a government investigation; or
  • you are a healthcare worker and you reported a medical error.
  • You are protected by this law ONLY if you tell your supervisor about what you think is wrong. You must allow enough time for your supervisor to correct the problem unless you have a good reason to think that he or she will not fix it.

A poster about this must be at your workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. “Can I be fired if I report a workplace problem or violation?”

It is against the law to fire someone for reporting a workplace problem or violation.

2.“If I lose my job for what looks like discrimination, what should I do?”

File a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission within six (6) months of the end of your employment.

For more information, call Maine Human Rights Commission (207-624-6290, TTY 1-888-577-6690).

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Workers' Compensation

This is insurance paid for by the employer. It gives benefits to employees who get hurt on the job. Most public and private employers have this insurance for their workers. You must follow the rules to get the benefits. Check the Workers' Compensation Labor Poster in your workplace for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1.) “If I get hurt at work, what should I do?”

Tell your supervisor or a manager as soon as you can.

2.) "What should my employer do?”

Your employer must fill out a “first report” of the injury within seven (7) days. You should get a copy. If you lost a day at work, your employer will notify the Workers’ Compensation Board. If your employer does not do this, call a regional Workers’ Compensation Board office. Ask to speak to a Troubleshooter.

3.) “What if my employer won’t pay my claim?”

If this happens, your employer will file a Notice of Controversy (NOC). This will say why the employer does not want to pay your claim. If your employer files a NOC, a Troubleshooter will call you to hear your side. If you know about the NOC and a Troubleshooter has not called you within two (2) weeks, call a regional Workers’ Compensation Board office and ask to speak to a Troubleshooter.

Workers’ Compensation office telephone numbers:

Augusta 207-287-2308 or 1-800-400-6854
Bangor 207-941-4550 or 1-800-400-6856
Caribou 207-498-6428 or 1-800-400-6855
Lewiston 207-753-7700 or 1-800-400-6857
Portland 207-822-0840 or 1-800-400-6858

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Resources

State Government Agencies

Maine Department of Labor

45 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0045
(Physical address: 45 Commerce Drive, Augusta, ME)
207-623-7900
TTY Maine relay 711
www.Maine.gov/labor/
e-mail: webmaster.bls@Maine.gov

Maine Human Rights Commission

51 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0051
207-624-6290
TTY 1-888-577-6690
www.Maine.gov/mhrc

Maine Department of Health and Human Services

Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Maine
11 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0011
207-287-4627
TTY: Maine relay 711
www.tobaccofreemaine.org

Maine Labor Relations Board

90 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0090
207-287-2015
TTY: Maine relay 711
www.Maine.gov/mlrb/

Maine Workers’ Compensation Board

24 Stone St., Augusta, ME 04330-5220
207-287-3751
TTY: Maine relay 711
www.Maine.gov/wcb/

Federal Government Agencies

National Labor Relations Board

Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr., Federal Building
10 Causeway Street, Rm 601, Boston, MA 02222-1072
1-866-667-6572
TTY 1-866-315-6572
www.nlrb.gov

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

JFK Federal Bldg., Room 475, Government Center
Boston, MA; 02203
1-800-669-4000
TTY 1-800-669-6820
www.eeoc.gov

U.S. Department of Labor

Wage and Hour Division
603-666-7716
www.dol.gov/esa/whd

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

District Office 207-941-8177
Area Office
40 Western Avenue, Suite G26, Augusta, ME; 04330
207-626-9160
www.osha.gov

Employee Benefits and Security Administration

1-866-444-3272
www.dol.gov/ebsa

 

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