In discussing the Maine Sick Leave Law, there are a couple of legal subjects employees need to know.
Severe Health Condition Defined
Before discussing the laws you may use for sick leave, let’s discuss how the state defines a severe health condition.
A severe health condition refers to any physical or mental injury, illness, and impairment that requires overnight treatment or continuous care in a medical facility.
The condition makes an individual unable to perform their duties as an employee.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
FMLA mandates covered employers to grant eligible employees up to three months of unpaid job-protected leave for the reasons listed below.
- For a severe health condition that prevents the employee from performing their duties
- Incapacity resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, and prenatal care
- Infant care after childbirth
- Placement of the child’s foster care or adoption
- If the employee’s immediate family members are suffering from a serious injury or illness
Use of Leave
This leave benefit does not have to be exhausted all at once by the covered employee.
Depending on the situation, leave may be used on a reduced leave schedule or intermittently.
Employees need to produce reasonable notice to their employers for scheduled medical treatment or other purposes so that the business operations are not significantly disrupted.
Leave for qualifying exigencies is applicable on an as-needed basis.
Employees are eligible to maintain their health insurance coverage while on leave at the same rate they pay when working.
Although FMLA leave is mostly unpaid, workers may have the option to utilize their paid leave during its duration.
However, employees must abide by the paid leave policies of their employers.
With a few exceptions, after an employee’s FMLA leave is consumed, the individual is entitled to return to the same role or a similar job.
Covered employers are required to notify their workers who request the leave immediately if they are qualified for FMLA leave or not.
The advisement must include all necessary details like the rights and obligations of the employees.
Companies need to notify their employees whether FMLA-protected leave is applicable and if the number of leave will be deducted from the employee’s credits.
If the employer finds that the FMLA does not cover the leave, the employee must be notified and get a proper explanation.
Employees must provide advance notice of 30 days if using the FMLA leave, but companies may have a specific timeline.
If it’s impossible, they must submit the notice ASAP and follow the employer’s standard call-in policies.
Employees have to give sufficient details for the employer to decide if the absence qualifies for FMLA and the date and duration.
They may also need to provide a certification proving the necessity for leave.
Mandatory Earned Paid Leave
Officially called Ch. 156 of the 2019 Public Law, the Earned Paid Leave (EPL) law was fully implemented in 2021.
Authorized by Governor Janet Mills and the Department of Labor, the law mandates several companies to let their employees earn paid time off annually.
Although it is not regarded by most as the Maine Sick Leave law, it is usable for medical and other essential purposes.
This employment law covers private employers who have at least eleven workers.
Part-time, non-citizen, and per diem employees are included as long as they don’t belong in the categories listed below.
- Employees who have seasonal H2A visas
- Workers with regular exemption from unemployment insurance coverage
- Seasonal workers who worked in the service industry (hotels, motels, restaurants, variety stores, or camps)
That is, given these establishments are operating for 26 weeks only or less. The full list of seasonal businesses and industries is available on the state’s official website.
Use of Leave
Earned leave credits are usable for any reason, like vacation time or sick days.
However, there may be a couple of limitations on how non-emergency leave is applicable.
For example, if an employee has a one-hour meeting, the employer may only give up to two hours of leave.
Unless it’s for emergency purposes, a company may require its workers to provide advance notice of one month.
There could also be blacked-out dates that restrict the employee from filing a leave on a given day.
This system prevents the employer from experiencing undue hardship because of the lack of available workers.
Still, if the leave is due to illness, emergency, or other urgent necessity, the restrictions will be a non-factor.
Employees are eligible to earn accrued pay leave once they are fully hired.
They are entitled to get one hour of leave for every 40 hours of work.
Employees who work eight hours per week for a year will earn paid leaves of five days or 40 hours.
The leave is available after at least 120 days of employment.
It’s possible that an employee front-loads the leave and the termination of employment happens before earning the credits or sufficient hours.
For this situation, the used paid leave is deducted from the final paycheck.
Employees who use their paid leave are entitled to earn the regular base rate with commissions and bonuses.
There are no restrictions on the law that discourages employees who want to use the leave after receiving incentives.
As such, the paid leave law is mostly associated with employee benefits, not with the employer.
Family and Medical Leave
According to the state’s Employee Rights Guide, companies and public agencies with at least 15 employees are mandated to provide leave.
It’s different from the FMLA Act.
To be eligible, the employee has to be working for 12 consecutive months or more.
Once the leave is finished, they are entitled to return to the same role or a similar position.
They must provide their workers unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 10 weeks under the following conditions:
- An employee or their immediate family members have a serious health condition.
- The worker is an organ donor and is scheduled to have an organ transplant.
- A child of the employee is due for adoption or foster care.
- An immediate family member who is part of the state or US military force has sustained serious injury or illness or has perished on duty.
You may consider the subjects mentioned above as the Maine Sick Leave law.
They may have different eligibility and requirements, but overall, these laws may supersede the policies set by employers.