On May 28, 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed L.D. 369, making Maine the first state to require that private employers provide earned paid leave—not just sick leave—to employees.

The bill, “An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave,” requires private employers that employ 10 or more employees for more than 120 days in a calendar year to provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid leave per year. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2021.

The law permits eligible employees to use the paid leave for any reason. Employees can start accruing leave on their first day of work but cannot use the leave until after 120 days of employment.

L.D. 369 exempts seasonal businesses, employers of employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, employers that hire workers for fewer than 120 days, and employers with fewer than 10 employees.

When signing the bill, Governor Mills said the law would cover about 85 percent of Maine’s workforce while exempting more than 40,000 of the state’s 50,792 businesses.

Employers impacted by this change may want to reevaluate their current leave policies to ensure compliance with the new law. When doing so, employers may want to note these key provisions:

  • If an employee takes earned leave, the employer must pay the employee at the same pay rate the employee received immediately prior to taking earned leave. The employer must also provide “the same benefits as those provided under established policies of the employer pertaining to other types of paid leave.”
  • If an employee takes earned paid leave, it should not affect his or her right to receive health benefits “on the same terms and conditions as applicable to similarly situated employees.”
  • Employers that fail to comply with the law can be liable for up to $1,000 per violation.