Maine Enacts New Law to Assist Military Families
Effective immediately, certain private and public employers in Maine are now required to provide unpaid leave time to spouses, domestic partners and parents of soldiers being called into active duty. Maine’s new Act To Assist Maine Military Families (the “Act closely mirrors Illinois’ Family Military Leave Act.
Covered Employers. The Act applies to employers with fifty (50) or more employees, including private corporations, partnerships, associations and other business entities, as well as state and local employers in Maine. Unfortunately, the Act does not specify whether “employer” includes only companies that have fifty (50) or more employees in Maine, or all companies with fifty (50) or more employees regardless of how many of those are employed in Maine.
Eligible Employees. An employee is eligible for leave under the Act if the employee: (1) has been employed by the same employer for at least twelve (12) months and (2) has worked for at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave. Significantly, independent contractors are also eligible for leave under the Act.
“Family Military Leave.” Under the Act, “family military leave” is defined as “leave requested by an employee who is the spouse, domestic partner or parent of a person who is a resident of [Maine] and is deployed for military service for a period lasting longer than 180 days with the State or United States pursuant to the orders of the Governor or the President of the United States.”
Fifteen (15) Days Maximum. The maximum amount of leave under the Act is fifteen (15) days, and it can be taken prior to and/or at the end of the family member’s military deployment. Specifically, an eligible employee can take up to fifteen (15) days of leave immediately prior to deployment, or fifteen (15) days immediately following the period of deployment, or a total of fifteen (15) days with some taken prior to, and some taken after, such deployment.
Minimum Notice and Certification Requirements. The Act imposes minimum notice requirements on employees seeking family military leave.
- An employee seeking five (5) or more consecutive days off from work must provide the employer with at least fourteen (14) days’ notice.
- An employee seeking fewer than five (5) days of leave need only provide as much advance notice to the employer “as is practicable.”
In either event, the employee is required to consult with the employer to attempt to schedule the leave so as not to unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
In addition, the employer may require certification from the “proper military authority” to verify the employee’s eligibility.
The Act’s Protections. The Act provides certain protections for employees taking family military leave. For example, the Act provides that an employee will not forfeit contract rights or seniority status, nor will the employee lose any employment benefit accrued prior to the leave. In addition, the Act states that the employee may negotiate with the employer to maintain certain benefits, at the employee’s expense, during the leave.
Subject to the requirements of the Act, upon returning from leave, an employee is entitled to be restored to the same position held by the employee before the leave commenced, or to a position with equivalent seniority status, employee benefits, pay and other terms and conditions of employment.
Under the Act, employees are prohibited from taking any adverse employment action or discriminating against an employee for exercising his or her rights or opposing any practice made unlawful by the Act.
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Other states are considering similar legislation to allow family members of those in the military to take unpaid leave in order to visit with their loved ones.
Maine’s new “family military leave” law serves as a reminder to each employer to be sure to stay current with the leave of absence laws in each state in which the employer operates, so as to avoid inadvertent violations of such leave laws. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or if we can be of assistance in ensuring compliance with this new law in Maine or leave of absence laws in other states.