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Is your business prepared for Maine’s new paid time off law?

If your business has 11 or more employees, Maine’s new, first-in-the-nation paid time off law applies to you.

All Maine employees – full-time, part-time, paid interns, per diem workers and others – are eligible to accrue one hour of paid leave per 40 hours worked up to 40 hours a year. That earned time off can be used for things like transportation or child care emergencies without notice.

If you want to better understand the new law and prepare for its impact, join moderator Carol Coultas and a panel of local experts.

On the panel:


Cynthia Murphy, senior program director of Workforce Solutions at CEI

Cynthia Murphy leads workforce solutions strategy and program delivery at CEI, helping employers create a people strategy that delivers competitive advantage and expanding opportunities for marginalized job seekers. She identifies opportunities to advocate for public policies that encourage quality jobs and amplify the public narrative about how quality jobs strengthen families, businesses and communities. Prior to joining CEI, Cynthia had a 25+ year career in the for-profit sector leading commercial operations for subsidiaries of Thomson Reuters, a global information business. She holds a B.A. from the University of Maine, an M.S. from Simmons College and a certificate in nonprofit management from Georgetown University. She volunteers as a certified SCORE mentor and a Top Gun Mentor.

Tawny Alvarez, partner and labor and employment specialist at Verrill

An employment law specialist, Tawny Alvarez serves as editor of Verrill’s Employment & Labor Group blog, Taking Care of HR Business, and regularly presents to employers, human resources professionals, and peers on trending issues, best practices, and industry-specific concerns. Tawny created the HR Law 101 Series to provide individuals who are new to human resources with guidance on best practices regarding issues that frequently develop.

She holds a law degree from Pace University and an undergraduate degree from Thomas College. She serves on the Board of Directors, Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB); the Steering Committee, Portland Museum of Art Contemporaries; and the membership & Programming Committee, United Way Greater Portland Brick and Beam Society.

We weren’t able to get to all of our audience-submitted questions during the program. Tawny Alvarez provided us with some additional information.

We give a week’s vacation time after 6 months of employment to be used in the next 6 months. If I understand this correctly we can no longer do it that way? You could provide a week’s vacation at the start of employment, but on the first day of employment the employee is entitled to begin earning the leave, even if they are restricted from using it for 120 days.

We would need to either accrue time, or give them the 40 hours at 120 days? You would need to give 40 hours on day 1, with the caveat that they can’t start using it until 120 days of employment have elapsed.

We do not do accrual of time at this point, we give vacation time up front on the anniversary date of the employee’s hiring and they get 80 hours to use within the year, plus 3 days of sick time. Does this all get lumped together now or is it okay to have separate vacation and sick time banks? You can have separate policies for Vacation, Sick, and Earned Paid Leave.

Does this apply to seasonal employees? To some seasonal employees yes.  The exception would be for seasonal employees employed by a seasonal employer as provided/defined by the Maine Bureau of Unemployment.

If you have a policy currently in place for vacation and sick time, is this new policy in addition to that policy? You could amend you current policies to comply with the EPL requirements.

So you would essentially have 3 buckets of ‘leave’ time? Vacation, sick and EPL? You could do it this way.

EPL accrues at the same time your vacation/sick time accrues? You can have it accruing simultaneously, but many organizations simply have the first 40 hours of accrued paid leave set up to be in compliance with the EPL requirements.

For a planned absence, can the request be denied due to business staffing needs?  I can see where a company would be potentially shut down if too many employees request the same days off. It can be, but the employer should be able to point to specific business needs/scheduling concerns to justify the denial.

So if an exempt employee needs 1 hour off, we’d pay them one hour of leave? Correct.

How does this balance with FLSA? The employee would still receive their regular salary for the week, having worked 39 hours and used 1 hour of paid leave.  The problem as to possible loss of exempt status and changes in how payment is made under the FLSA only becomes a concern if the employee is taking time away from work and has no paid leave available.

Can we have different policies for exempt and non-exempt employees? You can but be mindful of any policies that on their face are non-discriminatory but have a discriminatory impact or effect.

More PTO for exempt staff based on length of employment? You can have PTO at any rate you would like, but all employees must be able to obtain and take up to 40 hours of EPL per year (depending on their work schedule).

Does a seasonal business that only operates for 6 months but employs a few people year round have to offer the benefit? More information is needed and you would have to discuss this with counsel.

How does allowing using time in 1 hour increments impact exempt status? It does not because you are still paying the employee their full salary, it’s just that the make-up of the time is different.  Employee A worked 38 hours and took 2 hours of EPL, still receives their normal salary.


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