2015 Labor Law Update

127th Maine Legislature – First Regular Session
Summary of DOL-Related Legislation

An Act Extending Workers' Compensation Benefits to Certain Employees of the Office of the State Fire Marshal Who Contract Cancer (LD 125, PL 2015 Ch. 373)
This bill amends the law allowing for workers' compensation benefits for firefighters who contract cancer by including in the definition of firefighters investigators and sergeants employed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The statutory title affected is 39-A MRSA  328-B. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Improve Disclosure Procedures (LD 451, PL 2015 Ch. 275)
This bill provides for the removal of the sunset provisions contained in Public Law 2013, chapter 150. It clarifies that the amendments made by Public Law 2013, chapter 150 apply to small claims court disclosure proceedings and allows the judgment creditor to obtain Department of Labor wage information when the judgment debtor has not conformed to the requirements of an installment payment order. The statutory title affected is 14 MRSA  3126-A,  3134, and  3135. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Improve the Veterans' Services Laws (LD 694, PL 2015 Ch. 175)
This bill provides that a person is ineligible for interment in the Maine Veterans' Memorial Cemetery System if that person has been proven to have committed a serious crime, such as murder, a sexual offense or any crime punishable by imprisonment for life. It also allows Department of Labor personnel to access veterans' military service records.  The statutory title affected is 37-B MRSA  504 and  509. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Update Maine Law To Conform to New Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration Regulations (LD 699, PL 2015 Ch. 138)
This bill ensures the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Standards is in compliance with recent changes made by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to its injury and illness recordkeeping requirements. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires state plan states to implement these changes to conform to the new requirements no later than July 1, 2015, or risk a loss of federal reimbursement.

Under current law, a person in charge of a workplace is required to report in writing or by telephone to the Director of the Bureau of Labor Standards the death of any person in the workplace or a serious physical injury requiring hospitalization sustained by a person in the workplace. This bill replaces the requirement to report in writing or by telephone with a requirement to report by telephone or electronically and provides that the report may be made to the director or the director's designee. It amends the definition of "serious physical injury." It also authorizes the director and any authorized agent of the bureau to enter a public sector workplace for the purpose of examining the safety and health of employees. The statutory title affected is 26 MRSA  2 and  44.  This bill was submitted as emergency legislation and the law became effective on June 3, 2015.

An Act Regarding the Industry Partnership Assistance Collaborative's Grant Program (LD 700, PL 2015 Ch. 156)
This bill changes the laws governing the Office of the Governor, Industry Partnership Assistance Collaborative grant program. It changes eligibility requirements for the grant program by reducing the grant program's required private sector matching funding from 50% to 25% and allowing the collaborative discretion to exempt businesses with fewer than 25 employees from the matching funding requirement. The statutory title affected is 26 MRSA  3305. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Modify Unemployment Insurance Successor Law (LD 701, PL 2015 Ch. 107)
This bill changes the treatment of unemployment contribution rate assignment in successor transactions. In cases when the successor is a newly established employer, and when no substantial common ownership, management or control exists between the purchaser and the predecessor, the successor may opt to retain the predecessor’s rate or be assigned the average contribution rate, whichever is lower. In such cases when the successor is an established employer with an existing contribution experience rate, the successor may choose to retain this rate or inherit the experience rate of the purchased business blended with the successor’s existing rate to form a new experience rate, whichever is more favorable. The statutory title affected is 26 MRSA  1221. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Clarify Filing Methods for Quarterly Payroll Reports (LD 702, PL 2015 Ch. 39)
This bill allows for employers to file separate quarterly state withholding and unemployment tax forms electronically. It also renames the combined unemployment insurance contributions and income tax withholding account within the Unemployment Compensation Fund administered by the Commissioner of Labor the tax deposit account. The statutory title affect is 26 MRSA  1082 and  1161. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Amend the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program To Allow for Participation in Early College and Career and Technical Education Programs (LD 856, PL 2015 Ch. 257)
This bill expands the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program to include participants who are under 18 years of age if they are full-time secondary students at a public secondary school and enrolled in a career and technical education program at a career and technical education center or a career and technical education region and:

  1. Do not have a marketable postsecondary degree;
  2. Have income less than 200% of the federal poverty level; and
  3. Are applying for education or training 1 for a job in an approved industry.

The bill also directs the Commissioner of Labor to transfer funds from the Competitive Skills Scholarship Fund to cover postsecondary education expenses for secondary students in a dual enrollment career and technical education program established pursuant to statute, also known as a "Bridge Year Program." The provisions in the bill are repealed on January 1, 2021. The statutory title affected is 26 MRSA  2033. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Strengthen the Right of a Victim of Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence To Take Necessary Leave from Employment and To Promote Employee Social Media Privacy (LD 921, PL 2015 Ch. 343)
Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking or the child, spouse, or parent of such individuals may take reasonable and necessary leave from employment excepting certain conditions. If leave is denied and reported to the Department of Labor within six months of the occurrence and the employer is found to have denied the leave not in accordance with the law, a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation may be assessed against the employer. Additionally, the employer is liable for liquidated damages in an amount equal to three times the amount of total assessed fines. If the employee is terminated, the employee may elect either the liquidated damages or reemployment with the employer with back wages.

Employers in Maine will be restricted in their ability to access the personal social media or email accounts (non-public information) of employees and applicants. Employers may not terminate, discipline or otherwise take adverse action against an employee or applicant, due to the employee’s or applicant’s refusal to cooperate with any prohibited request or demand. Some exceptions apply, including when disclosure of personal social media account information is reasonably believed to be relevant to an investigation of alleged employee misconduct or a workplace-related violation of applicable laws, rules or regulations. The law provides that fines will be not less than $100 for the first violation, not less than $250 for the second violation and not less than $500 for each subsequent violation.  The statutory title affected is 26 MRSA  850, and c. 7, sub-c. 1-C. This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Clarify the Laws Governing the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (LD 1199, PL 2015 Ch. 141)
This bill changes the laws governing the Department of Labor, Bureau of 37 Rehabilitation Services by:

  1. Repealing the laws governing the blind-1 made products program, a program that no longer exists;
  2. Changing references to the Federal Rehabilitation Act to the federal Rehabilitation
    Act of 1973;
  3. Specifying the Department of Labor as the designated state agency to provide rehabilitation services under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and naming the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired as the designated state units;
  4. Defining "gainful employment" as it pertains to the different standards within the
    Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired;
  5. Changing the phrase "handicapped or disadvantaged individual" to "person with a disability"; and
  6. Reducing the number of members on the Commission for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened from 24 members and 3 at large members to up to 23 members to reflect the bylaws voted on by the commission. It also provides that members serve 3-year terms and may serve multiple terms without limit.

The statutory titles affected are 5 MRSA  1821,  1822,  1823,  1824; 26 MRSA  1411-A,  1411-C,  1411-D,  1411-E,  1411-F,  1411-H,  1412-C,  1412-E,  1413-C,  1418-C.  This law is effective on October 15, 2015.

An Act To Preserve the Efficiency of Transportation Maintenance and Construction Activities (LD 1245, PL 2015 Ch. 177)
This bill provides an exemption from the Overhead High-voltage Line Safety Act to an employee or independent contractor engaged on behalf of a municipality or state agency to maintain or install traffic signals, traffic beacons, dynamic signs or luminaires within 10 feet of overhead high-voltage lines.  The statutory title affected is 35-A MRSA  752 and  761.  This law is effective on October 15, 2015.