Covid-19Worker Rights

April 29, 2021 by Meaghan Lasala

Know Your Rights – Maine’s Earned Paid Leave Law

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  1. What is Earned Paid Leave ?
    Also known as Public Law 2019 Ch. 156, “An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave,” Maine’s Earned Paid Leave law (EPL) went into effect on New Year’s Day 2021, a year and a half after it was signed by Gov. Janet Mills. The law requires many employers in Maine to allow their employees to earn and use up to five days of earned paid time off per year. The Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) was part of a coalition of community and labor organizations that advocated for Paid Sick Days in Maine which led to the passage of this law.
  1. Who does the law apply to? 
    1. The law applies to most employers in Maine with 11 or more employees. This includes part-time, per diem, and non-citizen workers, so long as they do not fall into one of the exempt categories described below. An estimated 66,000 workers in Maine will benefit from the law.
    2. Workers that are exempt from the EPL law include; 
      1. Employees of businesses with 10 or fewer employees, 
      2. Workers in “seasonal” industries:
        1. Hotels, motels, camps, variety stores, and restaurants if they operate for 26 weeks or less.
        2. Some industries are categorically considered “seasonal” like the growing and processing of certain agricultural products and recreation like skiing or boating.
        3. The full list of exempt seasonal industries is available here
      3. Workers with seasonal H2A visas. 
      4. Workers who are regularly exempt from coverage by unemployment insurance (not including pandemic unemployment program expansions). These workers include, independent contractors (1099 workers), hairdressers, tattoo artists, and cab drivers.
  2. How much leave do I get? 
    1. The law requires employers to allow workers to earn one hour of paid time off for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours (or five days) per year
  3. When does the earned paid leave start? 
    1. Workers covered by the law started earning leave on January 1, 2021 (or their first day of work, if their job began after January 1, 2021).
    2. Workers can use the earned leave after they have been employed for 120 days.  If you were already employed for at least 120 days before January 1, 2021, you can start using your leave as soon as it is accrued. 
  4. What can I use the leave for? 
    1. Earned leave may be used for any purpose, but there are some restrictions on when non-emergency leave can be requested and used (see #6 below).
    2. Your employer can require that you use the time in one-hour increments. For example, if you have a 30-minute appointment, your employer can require you to take one hour off in order to use earned leave.  But they cannot require you to take the time in larger than one-hour increments. 
  5. Do I have to give notice to take the time I accrued off?
    1. If you are taking leave for a foreseeable reason (scheduled appointment, planned vacation, etc.) and not for “an emergency, illness or other sudden necessity,” your employer may require you to provide up to 4 weeks notice
    2. The employer may restrict how many employees can take scheduled leave at a time or not allow scheduled leave at all on certain “black out dates” if the employer can show that leave would be an “undue hardship” on the employer during that time.  
    3. But time off for “emergency, illness or other sudden necessity” must still be granted, even during black out dates set by the employer. 
  6. How can I find out how much earned paid leave I have accrued?
    1. There are no requirements for an employer to record accrued earned paid leave (EPL) on a paystub, or anywhere else that is readily accessible to a worker. However,  if you suspect you are covered by the earned paid leave law, it is reasonable for you to ask a supervisor about how your hours are being tracked, and how much paid leave time you have accrued.
    2. All employers are required to hang a new poster “Regulation of Employment ” which includes information for employees about the new earned paid time off law. Typically it will be placed in a communal space or break room, alongside other posters about work place safety, and discrimination protections that are easy for employees to see.
    3. Get a pdf copy of the “Regulation of Employment ” poster, from the Maine Department of Labor at this link:  
    4. Multiple languages available including but not limited to; Français and Espagnol.
  7. Will this law change the benefits that my job already offers like paid time off, holiday pay, sick leave, etc? 
    1. No. The law sets an universal minimum amount of earned paid leave an employer must provide, but any additional benefits offered on top of that are not affected. 
    2. If your employer already has an accrued paid time off policy that is consistent with the EPL law (i.e. allows you to accrue up at least 40 hours per year that can be used for any purpose), it does not have to provide you with additional paid leave on top of the existing policy.   
    3. If you had already accrued leave under your employer’s existing paid time off policy, your employer cannot take that leave away if it provides leave under the new law. 
  8. Will this law affect the health insurance offered by my employer?
    1. No. The law prohibits your employer from taking away or otherwise changing your health benefits because you take advantage of earned leave under the law. 
  9. Can I be disciplined for taking leave under the Earned Paid Leave law?
    1. No. Although there is no explicit anti-retaliation provision in the law, the Maine Department of Labor has said that it would violate the law for your employer to discipline you for taking leave.  

If your employer has a “no-fault attendance” policy or a “no call/no show” policy that provides for automatic discipline for unscheduled absences, those policies may violate the law if they prevent you from taking unscheduled Earned Paid Leave for an “emergency, illness,or other sudden necessity.”