I. New Legislation Requires Attention Before Effective Date of October 18, 2021
There are several pieces of new legislation that take effect as of October 18, 2021, which necessitate changes to handbook policies/procedures. A summary of some of those changes follows:
A. Expanded Eligibility for Protected Family Leave
This law amends Maine’s Family Medical Leave Act to include grandparents among those protected employees who need leave in order to care for a grandchild or a domestic partner’s grandchild who has a serious health condition. Employers covered by the Maine FMLA will need to amend those policies to make this change prior to October 18. Remember that this change is only applicable to state law, not the federal FMLA.
B. Establishing Juneteenth as a Paid State Holiday
The first Juneteenth to be recognized as a paid state holiday will be June 19, 2022. If an employer is going to recognize that date as a paid or floating holiday, that change should also be made to handbooks/policies.
C. An Act Relating to Fair Chance in Employment
As of October 18, employers must ensure that applications and initial advertisements for positions will no longer make criminal history inquiries or state that individuals with a criminal record will not be considered or need not apply for a position. There are some exceptions to the law, including instances in which federal or state law, regulation, or rule mandates that a criminal conviction disqualifies an applicant from a position, imposes an obligation on an employer not to hire an applicant who has been convicted of a certain type of offense, or requires that an employer conduct a criminal history record check.
D. Changes to Overall Non-Discrimination Policy
An employer who has a non-discrimination policy in its handbook or policies should amend that policy to add gender identity, and those who sought and received an order of protection from abuse as additional protected categories. In addition, employer should be aware that the definition of “familial status” under the MHRA has been broadened to include those living with/caring for adults who lack the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety or self-care because the individual or individuals are unable to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions.
II. Changes to Minimum Wage and Tip Credit
In addition to the above legislation, employers are reminded that the state minimum wage will increase as of January 1, 2022 to $12.75 per hour. This means that the minimum salary threshold for exempting a worker from overtime pay will be affected, as this is based on the minimum wage. As of January 1, 2022, the new minimum salary threshold is $735.59 per week, or $38,251 per year.
Also, the new “tip wage,” will be $6.38 per hour in 2022. This means that service employees must receive at least a direct cash wage of $6.38 per hour from the employer. The employer must be able to show that the employee receives at least the minimum wage of $12.75 per hour when the direct wage and tips are combined at the end of the week.
We will be discussing these changes and other employment law updates in our 19th Annual Employment Law Seminar, scheduled for November 18.