Maine’s New Earned Paid Leave Law: The Basics That You Need to Know

Maine’s new “Earned Paid Leave” law (26 M.R.S. § 637) took effect on January 1, 2021.  The law requires certain businesses to provide paid time off benefits to their employees, subject to various conditions. Here is a brief overview of the new law.

Which businesses does it apply to?

Any business that employs more than 10 employees in the usual and regular course of business for more than 120 days in any calendar year.

Which employees are eligible for the earned paid leave?

Generally, all employees, regardless of job classification, are eligible to accrue earned paid leave under the new law. This includes employees who work on a full-time basis, as well as part-time, temporary, and even per diem employees. Likewise, employees are eligible to accrue earned paid leave regardless of whether they are classified as exempt or non-exempt for wage and hour purposes.  That said, there are special rules for “seasonal employees” as defined under the Employment Security Act. You should speak to an attorney if you think some or all of your employees may qualify as “seasonal.”

How much paid leave are employees entitled to?

Employees are entitled to accrue 1 hour of earned paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours’ paid leave in a year. Employees began accruing this leave as of January 1, 2021. You can restrict new employees from using their accrued time until they have been employed with you for 120 calendar days.

Is this new earned paid leave over and above any paid time off benefits that I’m already giving employees?

The new law sets a baseline of paid time off for employees; it is not necessarily “in addition to” paid time off you already provide.  So, if you already provide employees with paid time off benefits that are as generous (or more generous) that the requirements of the new law, then you don’t need to provide them with an additional 40 hours. However, you need to make sure that the paid time off benefits you are providing meets at least the minimum requirements of the new law

If I already give 40 or more hours of paid time off to my employees, does that mean I don’t need to make any changes to my existing policies?

In short, no.  The law also imposes certain other requirements, such as: how much notice you can require employees provide before using their accrued earned paid leave; under what circumstances you can deny a request to use earned paid leave; the rate of pay for earned paid leave; and what happens if an employee leaves your employment with accrued but unused earned paid leave.  Employers should carefully consider whether any of their current policies (e.g., vacation, sick time, and/or PTO policies, absenteeism and tardiness policies, etc.) ought to be amended in order to remain in compliance with the new law.

Summary

The information provided above is just a brief overview of some of the more common questions we have encountered regarding the new Earned Paid Leave law. It is by no means meant to be an exhaustive or all-inclusive explanation of the new law and its requirements. If you have questions or concerns regarding the Earned Paid Leave law, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of Rudman Winchell’s experienced employment attorneys.

Click here to watch a video on the Earned Paid Leave Law

Josh Randlett
Josh Randlett, Esq Rudman Winchell