Employment Law in Portland, ME
If you have suffered treatment from an employer in Portland, Maine that violates employment laws, learning more about the law can help. Hiring an employment law attorney can best help you navigate the process, and increase the chances of winning your case.
What Is Employment Law?
Employment law covers the rights, responsibilities, and obligations within the employer-employee relationship. Employment lawyers serve both employees and employers, though they generally focus their practice on serving one or the other. Regardless of who their clients are, their goal is to present a solid case and defend them.
Understanding Employment Law Labor Rights in Portland, Maine
Employees have a wide range of rights that employers cannot violate. If employers violate these rights, workers can file a complaint against them. Each state has unique labor laws and some also make provisions for qualifying independent contractors. Below are the most common topics covered in employment law across the country.
Wage and Hour Laws
Laws protect non-exempt employees from being forced to work for low wages and a certain amount of hours without increased pay. These are the wage and hour laws. They outline the minimum wages an employee can earn as well as the maximum amount of hours worked before qualifying employees should get paid overtime.
Maine, like every other state, has unique wage and hour laws. However, there are federal laws in place that are minimum requirements for all states. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but most states exceed that amount.
The Fair Labor Standards Act states that non-exempt employees can only work 40 hours per week at their regular wage rates. If they exceed that number, the employer must pay them overtime rates at a minimum of time and a half. Some states also require weekend overtime pay, holiday pay, and overtime for working more than a certain number of hours each day.
Under Maine law, the state minimum wage is $12.15 per hour for 2021. However, Portland’s minimum wage is set to increase to $15 over the next 3 years. In addition, Portland employers must pay overtime for hours over 40 per week and for certain work performed during a state of emergency.
If you’ve been injured on the job in Portland, ME you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes payments for lost wages and past or future medical bills that resulted from your workplace injury.
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be an employee.
- You must have a work-related illness or injury.
- Your employer must carry workers’ comp insurance.
- You must meet the deadline for filing workers’ comp claims.
There are, however, exceptions to these requirements that may still make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your employer is denying you benefits, you should contact a qualified Portland attorney for assistance with your case.
Termination Rights under Portland, Maine Employment Law
If you live in an at-will state, or your employment is “at-will,” meaning you can be terminated from your job without notice and without cause. However, even at-will employees have rights when it comes to termination. A violation of those rights can be wrongful termination.
Here are some reasons your termination might be wrongful even if you are an at-will employee:
- Written promises or contracts
- Implied promises
- Violations of public policy
- Breaches of good faith and fair dealing
- Workplace retaliation
- Whistleblowing violations
According to the Maine Department of Labor, Portland employment is at-will, unless there is a contract stating otherwise. In addition, Maine is not a Right to Work state. This means that you can be required to pay union fees as a condition of your employment. However, you cannot be required to join or participate in a union.
If you believe your termination was wrongful due to the above circumstances, then contact an experienced Portland, ME employment law attorney right away. This is because there are time constraints on how long you can wait to file a claim.
If you’ve lost your job, you can file for unemployment benefits with the state unemployment agency. The agency will either approve or deny your claim. Then, after approval, you’ll receive monthly unemployment checks and benefits in the mail after filing weekly unemployment claims. Still, unemployment claims can be denied for a number of reasons, including:
- If you were fired for misconduct.
- You voluntarily quit your job.
- You do not have enough earnings during the work period.
If your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision if you think it’s the wrong choice. Work with a qualified Portland attorney during the appeal process to improve your chances of winning the case.
Paid and Unpaid Time Off
Some states require paid time off as well as medical and family leave for employees. Oftentimes, this is combined into one singular paid time off, (PTO), amount. Laws can vary state-to-state, but typically PTO is accrued over time and you’ll get a set amount of PTO days per year.
Additionally, some states have laws that force the employer to pay for unused PTO. If you are not given proper PTO or your employer doesn’t follow your state’s medical or family leave laws, you can file a complaint.
Maine’s Earned Paid Leave statute became effective in 2021. The law applies to any Portland employer with at least 15 employees and without a collective bargaining agreement. Covered employers must offer paid leave, accrued at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked. Portland employees can use the leave for planned time off, such as vacation, or for unplanned emergency or sick leave.
Child Labor Laws
Child labor laws are a lot more strict than regular labor laws and require employers to be extra careful when scheduling minors. Each state has its own child labor laws that outline the number of hours a minor can work per week. These include how often they should have breaks, how many days in a row they can work, and how late they can work each night.
Maine law requires a work permit for Portland employees under 16. However, children under 14 are not generally permitted to work at all. In addition, all minors are subject to restrictions on their work hours, based on age and school schedule. Furthermore, employees under 18 are prohibited from driving vehicles, working at heights, and using most power equipment.
Portland, Maine Employment Anti Discrimination Laws
A collection of federal anti-discrimination laws protect workers from employment discrimination. Following are brief descriptions of some of these anti-discrimination acts:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from selecting job applicants and employees based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.
- Age Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination based on age for employees over the age of 40 years old.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities at any time during the application or hiring process or once the person holds the job.
- Equal Pay Act: Requires employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work.
If a coworker, employer, or client sexually harasses someone in the workplace; the employee has a set of rights to protect them from further harassment. Laws also offer protection from retaliation, such as getting fired for reporting a manager. If you or someone you know is facing sexual harassment in the workplace, report it to your HR department.
The Maine Human Rights Act protects Portland employees from sexual harassment. The law defines sexual harassment as a form of prohibited sex discrimination. Unlawful behavior can include unwanted advances, lewd remarks, or unwelcome touching. Sexual harassment complaints can be filed with Maine’s Human Rights Commission.
Work With an Experienced Employment Lawyer in Portland, Maine
If you have employment law concerns, or you’re currently preparing for a case in Portland, ME then working with an experienced attorney can help. The hard part is finding the right one. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Maine state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!