Maine Wage and Hour Laws
Many different types of wage and hour issues arise under federal and state laws across the country. The attorneys with Dolley Law have handled nearly every such type of issue. We have represented clients in federal and state courts across the country and consulted clients from a variety of different industries. No matter what wage and hour issue or situation you have, our attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to provide you the legal guidance you need. Contact us today.
Maine Minimum Wage
Maine declares, by law, a public policy that “workers employed in any occupation should receive wages sufficient to provide adequate maintenance and to protect their health, and to be fairly commensurate with the value of the services rendered.” 26 M.R.S. § 7-661.
Maine—like many other states—sets, by law, a minimum wage rate that is scheduled to increase each year by the Consumer Price Index. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-664.1. Currently, as of 2020, the minimum rage rate in Maine is $12.00 per hour, which is significantly higher than the current federal minimum rage rate of $7.25 per hour. Id. Moreover, if the federal minimum wage rate is ever increased to exceed the state minimum wage rate in Maine, the wage rate in Maine must be increased to match the federal rate. Id.
Maine also has a higher minimum wage rate for tipped employees. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-664.2. In Maine, tipped employee must receive, as an hourly wage, at least 50% of the general minimum wage rate, before counting any tips as wages; currently, this would be $6.00 per hour, whereas the federal rate for tipped employees is $2.13 per hour. Id. To use this lower hourly rate, however, Maine employers must ensure that they inform their employees of certain specific things prior to doing so. Id. In addition, employers must ensure, among other things, the effective regular rate for such employees never falls under the general minimum wage rate. Id.
Maine’s minimum wage law also addresses the issue of overtime pay. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-664.3. This overtime law largely incorporates the same big-picture principles of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”): the 40-hour workweek and definition of the “regular rate” of pay. See id. However, Maine’s overtime law is not identical to federal overtime law under the FLSA; for example, Maine—through its various statutory definitions and other provisions—adopts its own version of exemptions or exceptions to the overtime pay requirements. See, e.g., 26 M.R.S. §§ 7-664.3, 7-633.3.
Violation(s) of the minimum wage or overtime laws in Maine can result in substantial liabilities and/or penalties. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-670. If an employee prevails in a civil action to recover unpaid wages from his or her employer, the court must award the employee his or her unpaid wages, in addition to liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid wages, and an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. 26 M.R.S. § 7-670. However, Maine law clarifies that liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees awards are not available in overtime suits involving certain state employees. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-670-A.
Maine law further sets forth rules and requirements as to limits on overtime. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-603. In general, an employer in Maine may not require an employee to work more than 80 hours of overtime in any consecutive two-week period. Id. Employers can nonetheless mandate overtime hours below this number of hours. Id. Moreover, Maine law specifically states that this general prohibition does not apply to all employers or circumstances, such as those involving “essential services” for the public and other work performed in response to state-declared emergencies. See id.
Maine’s statutes contain a specific provision regarding the potential of misclassification of employees as independent contractors. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-591-A. This provision clarifies that an employer who intentionally or knowingly misclassifies an employee as an independent contractor may be found liable for a civil violation and fine between $2,000 and $10,000 per violation, as well as other statutory penalties. Id.
Meal and Rest Break
Maine law provides a rule regarding how and when employers must give employees rest time from work during the workday. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-601. In general, employers may not allow employees to work for more than six (6) consecutive hours at one time unless the employees are given the opportunity to take at least thirty (30) consecutive minutes of rest time. Id. However, there is an exception to this rule “in cases of emergency in which there is danger to property, life, public safety or public health.” Id. And the law makes clear that this rest time may serve as unpaid mealtime “only if the employee is completely relieved of duty.” Id.
This general rule does not apply to all employers or employment arrangements. Id. The law contains a “small business” exception. Id. This rule need not be followed in places of employment where there are fewer than three (3) employees on duty at any one time and the nature of the work done by the employee allows the employee frequent paid breaks of a shorter duration during the workday. Id.
Violating this meal break rule may result in the imposition of certain statutory penalties as well as other injunctive relief. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-602. In addition, Maine law specifically protects employees who report these violations from discharge or other adverse actions.
Finally, in relation to breaks, Maine law also provides rules specific to mothers in the workplace who may have a need to express breast milk during the workday. 26 M.R.S. § 7-604. This law requires employers to provide such employees with the ability to take time to do so in a clean and private environment. Id. The law further protects such employees from discrimination for expressing breast milk in the workplace. Id.
Maine has its own wage payment law that requires timely and full payment of wages. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-621-A. The law provides, in relevant part: “[a]t regular intervals not to exceed 16 days, every employer must pay in full all wages earned by each employee.” Id. The law requires wages to “be paid on a established day or date at regular intervals made known to the employee. The interval may not be increased without written notice to the employee at least 30 days in advance of the increase.” Id.
Maine further has laws specific to the timely payment of wages upon the end of an employee’s employment with an employer. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-626. This law states, in relevant part: “[a]n employee leaving employment must be paid in full no later than the employee’s next established payday.” Id. And the law specifically treats vacation pay as wages if “the terms of employment or the employer’s established practice includes provisions for paid vacations.” Id.
Maine law authorizes employees to bring civil actions recover unpaid wages. Id. If an employee prevails in bringing such an action, the court must award the employee the unpaid wage amount, a reasonable rate of interest on the unpaid amount, an additional amount equal to the unpaid wages in the form of liquidated damages, costs of the suit, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Id. However, Maine law contemplates the employee making a demand upon the employer for the unpaid wages in the event of a bona fide dispute about the issue. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-626-A.
Like the FLSA, Maine law contains a prohibition of sex discrimination in employee pay. See 26 M.R.S. § 7-628. The law is largely patterned on the same prohibition in the FLSA and includes a provision that protects employees from retaliation in the event of making a complaint about sex discrimination in employee pay. Id.
Maine law contains a variety of different rules and requirements related to wages and hours. These rules and requirements may or may not coincide with those of the FLSA. Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced wage and hour attorney is the best avenue to fully understand how these various rules and requirements interplay and apply to you. If you are in or around Cumberland, York, Penobscot, Kennebec, Androscoggin, or Aroostook counties, do not hesitate to call an attorney with our office today to discuss the possibility of legal representation. We can be contacted at (314) 645-4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.