2016 Labor Law Update

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

An Act To Enact the Recommendations of the Commission on Independent Living and Disability (LD 949, PL 2016 Ch. 452)
This bill authorizes the agency that is designated by the Governor to serve as the protection and advocacy agency for persons with disabilities in Maine to bring a civil action in Superior Court for violations of the Maine Human Rights Act regarding public accommodations and allows the agency to receive reasonable attorney's fees and costs;
requires the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) to provide an annual report to the Legislature on the State's strategic planning efforts to increase opportunities for persons with disabilities to live independently within the community in a number of areas, including transition planning for students, vocational rehabilitation services, available housing and accessibility of public accommodations; and, requires the SILC to convene a working group to develop a statewide transportation voucher program for persons with disabilities.  The statutory titles affected are 5 MRSA  19505, sub- 3; and, 26 MRSA  1412-I. This law is effective July 29, 2016.

An Act To Promote Workforce Development (LD 1137, PL 2016 Ch. 402)
This bill replaced the concept draft and changed the original title. The prior law required the Commissioner of Labor to establish a limit on, or a formula to limit, funds expended on administrative and career counseling costs of the Competitive Skills Scholarship Program and cap such expenditures at $550,000 annually. The bill eliminated the cap and now requires the Department of Labor to include the limit, or formula, and the amount spent for such costs on the program in its annual report to the Legislature. The statutory title affected is 26 MRSA  2033, sub- 2 and sub- 10. This bill was submitted as emergency legislation and the law became effective March 20, 2016.

An Act To Conform Maine Law to Federal Law Regarding Closings and Mass Layoffs and To Strengthen Employee Severance Pay Protections (LD 1389, PL 2016 Ch. 417)
This bill clarifies and strengthens the laws governing severance pay. It adds definitions for "closing," "mass layoff," "part-time employee," "employment loss" and "gross earnings." It provides that ambiguous language of an employer regarding the duration and nature of an employment loss may not be construed to prevent potential liability for payment of severance. The bill changes the circumstances that mitigate liability for severance pay by adding the closing of a covered establishment that is necessitated by the final order of a federal, state or local government agency, including an adjudication of bankruptcy. It amends the laws governing advance notice of a closing so they conform to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, also known as the WARN Act, 29 United States Code, Sections 2101 to 2109 (2014) and changes the designation of rules from major substantive to routine technical. The statutory title affected is 26 MRSA  625-B. This law is effective July 29, 2016.

An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force To Ensure Integrity in the Use of Service Animals (LD 1601, PL 2016, Ch. 457)
This bill implements the recommendations of the task force to ensure integrity in the use of service animals established pursuant to Resolve 2015, chapter 36. It creates a definition for "assistance animal," which distinguishes assistance animals from service animals, and amends the definition of "service animal" to achieve this distinction. It amends the provisions in the Maine Human Rights Act related to fair housing and public accommodations to provide clarity regarding their application to service animals compared to assistance animals. It also amends provisions in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 7 to align with the new definitions. Finally, it increases the penalty for misrepresentation as a service dog or assistance animal. The statutory titles affected are 5 MRSA  4553, sub- 1-H and sub- 9-E,  A; 5 MRSA  4582-A, sub- 3; 5 MRSA  4592, sub- 8; 7 MRSA  3907, sub- 24-A; 7 MRSA  3961-A; 17 MRSA  1011, sub- 24-A; 17 MRSA  1312, sub- 7; 17 MRSA  1314-A. This law is effective July 29, 2016.