This is an update to the email blast we provided last week reminding employers that Maine’s Employment Leave for Caregivers and Persons Affected by Extreme Public Health Emergency law will likely apply to pandemic related issues. One question that came from that is whether and how that law applies to parents whose children are either in a hybrid situation or remote learning. The Maine DOL has now provided some guidance on those issues. According to the DOL:
- The term “care or assistance” as used in this law does include childcare related to the extreme public health emergency; and
- An employee is entitled to utilize paid or unpaid leave under this law if the employee needs to care for their child because they do not want to send the child back to school while the extreme public health emergency is still in effect and for a reasonable and necessary time period following the termination of the extreme public health emergency for diseases or conditions that are contracted or exposures that occurred during the extreme public health emergency.
In practical effect, this is substantially broader than the accepted interpretation of the FFCRA, which is that leave is not available when a school or childcare is open but an employee chooses not to send their child back. Under this interpretation, an employee is entitled to remain employed and use paid or unpaid leave, at the discretion of the employer, during the period of the public health emergency and for an undetermined amount of time afterward. This law applies to all public and private Maine employers. There are a few exceptions to its application and employers are encouraged to consult with counsel about a specific application.