Maine, the most northeastern state in the Union, was colonized by Europeans way back in 1607. Today, the state is home to over 1.3 million people, although much of the mountainous, forested terrain remains as “untouched” by the activities of man as it was 400 years ago. Maine’s economy, according to a study done by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in 2003, is worth a little over $ 41 billion. Maine boasts thriving maritime and seafood industries (especially lobster farming). The state may be “too remote” to support many big companies, but tourism employs thousands and brings in millions of dollars annually. Maine also produces significant provisions of lumber and maple syrup, and the US Navy maintains several key naval bases in the state as well.

The Maine Department of Labor oversees anti-discrimination protections for state workers. To learn more about the nuances of ME’s anti-discrimination policy, check out the Maine Employee Rights Guide, offered free through the DOL. The agency also enforces minimum wage laws, protects “whistleblowers,” and provides answers to various and sundry questions about ME’s labor law. The Maine Human Rights Commission, a division of the DOL, specifically deals with sexual harassment and discrimination cases. Maine is what is known as an “at will” state, meaning that employers in certain situations can discharge workers without cause or notice. However, these provisions do not allow employers to discriminate against employees, nor does it allow employers to “retaliate” by firing individuals who file discrimination charges, even if those charges are ultimately dismissed.

Discrimination and harassment is relatively widespread in the fishing industry. Many commercial fishermen operate very traditional businesses and don’t want to be “told what to do” by the government when it comes to hiring and firing workers. Given this tension between tradition and Maine law, workers often swallow abuse just to get along.

Many other issues exist among Maine employers, including:

  1. Hour and wage violations. Beyond minimum wage, some employers intentionally or unintentionally fail to follow current overtime laws by misclassifying workers, falsifying time records, or forcing employees to work “off the clock.”
  2. FMLA violations. Under the Family Leave Medical Act, employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks off of work when they give birth, adopt a child, or seek prolonged medical care for their or a family member’s illness. They cannot be fired, demoted, or otherwise penalized for such absences.
  3. ADA violations. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from making adverse employment decisions, firing an employee, or restricting job duties for individuals with physical or mental conditions impacting one or more life functions. They must provide reasonable accommodations to help workers with disabilities perform their duties safely.

Every worker has the right to a fair and equitable workplace. Fortunately, a multitude of laws exist at the state and federal level to help you and your colleagues. If your work rights have been violated, a Maine lawyer can explain your options and offer advice. Click here to contact a local employment attorney.

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