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MAINE REST BREAK LAW

MAINE REST BREAK LAW In Maine, an employee may not be required to work more than six consecutive hours without a rest break of at least 30 minutes.  26 M.R.S.A. §601.  The break time does not have to be paid time; an employee may be required to “punch out” for his break.  The break is typically used as lunch or other mealtime.  It is common for employers to give shorter breaks during the day, which must be paid if given, but an employer is not required to provide paid breaks. An employee needs to be able to rest and eat without work interruption.  This is particularly important if the rest time is not paid time, as Maine wage and hour laws for hourly-paid employees might deem rest time as “compensable” time, if the employee is not completely relieved from her duties. There are of course several exceptions to the rule.  A collective bargaining agreement (union contract) or other written employment agreement may contain provisions that allow for a different break or mealtime arrangement.  There is also a small business exception in the Maine statute.  The rule does not apply to any place of employment where there are fewer than three employees on duty at a time.  An exception exists for emergency situations “in which there is danger to property, life, public safety or public health.”  The law also carves out an exemption for employers if “the nature of the work done by the employees allows them frequent breaks during their work day.”  If an employee is free to rest, eat, use facilities, etc., during the course of their shift,...

NEW OVERTIME EXEMPTION SALARY THRESHOLD

New Overtime Exemption Rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), most Americans are entitled to overtime pay (at the rate of time-and-a-half their hourly rate) when they work more than 40 hours in one week. But certain professional, salaried positions are exempt from the overtime rules. Due to an executive order changing the salary requirements for the most common employee exemption to apply, however, it is estimated that over four million workers, currently classified as exempt, will become eligible for overtime pay by the end of this year. The overtime exemption most applicable is the bona fide executive, administrative or professional employee exemption – also known as the “white collar” exemption. Currently, in addition to certain job-related requirements (i.e., “duties tests”) for an employee to fall within the overtime exemption, the employee must earn at least $23,660 per year. The executive order, however, more than doubles that amount, to $47,476 per year. The new rule does not change the “duties test” for the white collar employee exemption, but, given the new salary requirements, many of the employees currently under this exemption will become eligible based on the salary threshold alone. The good news is that employers may have a clearer sense of employee overtime eligibility, given that the employees’ salaries will now fall below the new threshold, such that an assessment of their duties will no longer be necessary. The salary amount for the executive, administrative, or professional employee exemptions to apply in Maine is based on a formula: the annual compensation rate must exceed “3000 times the State’s minimum hourly wage...

MILITARY EMPLOYMENT LAWS

EMPLOYMENT LAWS SPECIFIC TO MILITARY EMPLOYEES Federal Laws Protecting Military Employees Federal law protects military employees through the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq. The intent of USERRA is to ensure that employees do not lose their civilian employment status and benefits simply as a result of their service to our country. USERRA provides them with the opportunity to return to their civilian employment upon completion of their military service. Employers must reinstate returning military personnel to the same position and with the same benefits, pay, and seniority they would have enjoyed had they not left their civilian job to serve the country. Also, under USERRA, for the first 30 days of an employee’s military leave, the employer must continue the employee’s existing health, dental, and life insurance at no additional cost to the employee. If a service-member becomes disabled due to military service and becomes unable to perform the job duties, an employer is required under USERRA to employ the returning soldier in a job that is the “nearest approximation to” the prior position. In addition, a service-member cannot be fired without cause for up to one year (depending on the length of military service) after reinstatement, regardless of Maine’s “employment at will” status or an employer’s personnel policies. USERRA also contains anti-discrimination provisions, such that hiring, promotion, and termination decisions cannot be made solely on the basis of present or anticipated membership in the armed services. There are many other provisions, protections, and exceptions within USERRA that are beyond the scope of this article. There are also other federal...

DISCIPLINE OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES AND APPLICABLE MAINE MUNICIPAL STATUTES

Discipline of Public Employees — Applicable Laws A.  State Statutes Know the applicable laws before taking certain actions to discipline public employees.  Because Maine is an employment-at-will state, people sometimes forget that some protections are available for workers in the public sector that private sector employees don’t have.  Title 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2601 states that, except as otherwise provided by law, charter, or ordinance, the municipal officers shall appoint “all municipal officials and employees required by general law, charter or ordinance[1] and may remove those officials and employees for cause, after notice and hearing.”  (Emphasis added) Certain categories of public employees also have separate protections from being fired except for cause.  See, e.g., 30-A 2601-A (Code Enforcement Officers), 30-A M.R.S.A. § 2671(1) (Police).  There is no obvious explanation for affording extra protection to these municipal employees except perhaps more effective lobbying at the state level by their employee organizations. Protection against being discharged except “for cause” means that the reason for termination must be substantial.  Except in the most egregious cases, a municipality should follow some kind of progressive discipline procedure before terminating an employee so that it is obvious that the employee in question failed to meet his or her employer’s expectations. In cases in which the employee is charged with serious misconduct, the employer may be reluctant to allow him or her to remain in the workplace while the allegations are being investigated.  In such a case, administrative leave may be appropriate so that the employee in question is, in effect, suspended with pay until the employer is ready to make a final decision and, if necessary, conduct...