Maine Legislative Roundup: New Employment Laws Were Enacted This Session

The First Special Session of the 131st Maine Legislature included debate about more than 2,000 bills. Many that were adopted will impact employers in the Pine Tree State. Below is a brief summary of important employment law changes enacted this session. 

An Act to Create the Maine Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program

The budget signed by Maine Governor Janet Mills on July 11, 2023, included funding for one of the broadest and most generous paid family and medical leave programs in the country.

L.D. 1964 provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year to all eligible employees in the private and public sectors, except for employees of the federal government, regardless of employer size. The leave is available for the employees’ own conditions as well as the conditions of legal or biological family members with whom they have “a significant personal bond that is or is like a family relationship regardless of biological or legal relationship.” An employee qualifies for the paid leave program immediately after starting employment.

To fund this new program, the state will impose a 1% payroll tax split evenly between the employer and employee. The payroll tax will take effect on January 1, 2025, and employees can start taking leave in 2026. Details about this expansive new law are explained in this Littler Insight.

Increased Limits on Awards for Compensatory and Punitive Damages Under the Maine Human Rights Act

Signed and enacted into law on June 12, 2023, L.D. 1423 more than doubled the amounts of compensatory and punitive damages recoverable in claims brought under the Maine Human Rights Act. The new limits on awards for compensatory and punitive damages are:

Employer Size1

Prior Damages Cap

New Damages Cap

15-100 employees



101-200 employees



201-500 employees



501+ employees



Employers with employment practices liability insurance may want to check their policies to ensure they have adequate coverage.

Tip Pooling for Restaurant Workers

L.D. 903, signed by Gov. Mills on June 15th, 2023, allows non-tipped employees to participate in tip pools under certain circumstances. The law allows non-tipped employees to participate in tip pools if all the participating employees are being paid the minimum hourly wage and if the employer does not use the FICA tip credit.  Prior to enactment of this law, only tipped employees were eligible to participate in the tip pool. 

L.D. 903 follows existing federal regulations providing that if an employer pays its employees the full minimum wage and does not take a tip credit, the employer may impose a tip pooling arrangement to include employees that are not classified as service employees, such as dishwashers and cooks.

Maine Workers’ Compensation Act Expressly Permits Individual Liability for Sexual Harassment or Assault

On June 4, 2023, L.D. 53 (An Act to Ensure Accountability for Workplace Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault by Removing Certain Intentional Torts from Workers’ Compensation Exemptions) was enacted into law.  This bill amended 39-A M.R.S.A. 104 to provide that, notwithstanding exclusivity of the workers’ compensation remedy, an employee, supervisor, or officer or director of an employer may be individually liable for sexual harassment, sexual assault or an intentional tort related to sexual harassment or sexual assault.  The law provides that workers’ compensation remains the exclusive remedy for intentional torts with respect to an employer itself, including intentional torts related to sexual harassment or assault like intentional infliction of emotional distress or invasion of privacy. However, now individuals may be liable for such torts. The bill also expressly states, however, that this section does not prohibit or limit an action alleging employment discrimination pursuant to the Maine Human Rights Act or Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This seems to preserve an employer’s exposure to vicarious liability for the discriminatory acts of supervisors and other agents.

Issuance of Right-to-Sue Letters under the Maine Human Rights Act

On June 22, 2023, Gov. Janet Mills signed into law L.D. 1001 (An Act to Amend the Maine Human Rights Act Regarding Right-to-sue Letters) allowing the Maine Human Rights Commission to issue a right-to-sue letter without a request from the complainant.  The Maine Human Rights Commission may now issue a right-to-sue letter on or after the 181st day following the filing of a complaint with the Commission, similar to the power of the EEOC.  The law further provides that plaintiffs may not be awarded attorney’s fees, civil penal damages or compensatory and punitive damages under the Maine Human Rights Act unless they establish that they received a right-to-sue letter from the Commission before filing the civil action.

Expansion of the Equal Pay Act to include Race

L.D. 1703, signed into law by Gov. Mills on June 22, 2023, expands the Maine Equal Pay Law to add that an employer may not discriminate between employees in the same establishment on the basis of race by paying wages to any employee in any occupation at a rate less than the rate at which the employer pays any employee of another race for comparable work on jobs that have comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility.  Prior to the passage of this amendment, the Maine Equal Pay Law expressly prohibited an employer from discriminating in pay between employees in the same establishment on the basis of sex only.

Ban on Mandatory Employer-Sponsored Meetings

On July 11, 2023, Gov. Mills signed L.D. 1756 – An Act to Protect Employee Freedom of Speech – into law. This new law was intended to prohibit employers from holding employer-sponsored meetings during a union organizing campaign. The law that passed is significantly broader, however, and may impact an employer’s ability to conduct activities promoting inclusion, equity, and diversity. L.D. 1756 prohibits an employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee because the employee declines to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting or declines to receive or listen to a communication from the employer if the employer’s purpose is to communicate the opinion of the employer about religious or political matters. The bill provides an exemption for religious employers.

The new law defines political matters as “matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, proposals to change legislation, proposals to change rules or regulations, proposals to change public policy and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal or labor organization.” Religious matters means “matters relating to religious belief, affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association.”

Inasmuch as these new laws make wide-ranging changes in Maine law, employers should consider reviewing their employment policies for compliance and consulting counsel about how to mitigate potential exposures. 

See Footnotes

​1 Employer size is based on the number of employees employed in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the calendar year of, or the one preceding, the date of the alleged adverse employment action.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.