Layoff and Plant Closing Laws for Maine Employees

In Maine, employees are entitled to notice of layoffs and plant closings; they may be entitled to severance as well.

Employees have certain rights when a Maine employer conducts a mass layoff, closes a facility, or otherwise cuts a significant number of jobs. Employees don’t have a legal entitlement to keep their jobs or to be considered for rehire. Employers are not prohibited from letting go off workers when financial times get tough.

However, employees do have the right to a certain amount of notice before a plant closing or large-scale layoff. If the employer fails to give proper notice, employees are entitled to damages.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act gives employees these rights. Almost half of the states have similar laws, and Maine is one of them. Maine law requires employers to give notice when they relocate or discontinue their business operations. Maine also requires employers to pay severance to employees who have been with the company for at least three years.

This article provides information on the rights of Maine employees under the federal WARN Act and Maine law. For more information on your rights when you are laid off (including when you should receive your final paycheck and how to continue your health benefits), see the articles at our Losing or Leaving Your Job page.

Covered Employers

The coverage rules under federal and state law differ.

Employers Covered by WARN

Under the federal WARN Act, certain larger employers to give advance notice of mass layoffs or plant closings that will result in a certain number or percentage of employees losing their jobs. Employers are covered only if they have at least 100 full-time employees or at least 100 employees who work a combined 4,000 hours or more per week. (Full-time employees are defined as those who work at least 20 hours a week and have been employed for at least six of the 12 months ending on the date when notice must be given under WARN.)

Employers Covered by Maine Law

Under Maine law, any business enterprise that has employed at least 100 employees at any time during the last 12 months is covered.

Covered Layoffs

Not every layoff or plant closing is covered by federal or state law.

Federal WARN Act

WARN applies only to plant closings and mass layoffs.

  • A mass layoff is a reduction in force resulting in job loss at a single site of employment for 500 or more full-time employees, or for 50 to 499 full-time employees, if the number of employees laid off makes up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce.
  • A plant closing is the shutdown of a single site of employment, or at least one facility or operating unit within a single site of employment, which results in job loss for 50 or more full-time employees during any 30-day period. A single site of employment is simply one geographical location of an employer’s operations, such as a building, an office suite, or a group of buildings that form a campus or industrial park. Even work areas that are physically separate can be a single employment site if they are reasonably close together, used for the same purpose, and share the same staff and equipment.

WARN also applies to plant closings or mass layoffs that occur in stages over 90 days. This rule is intended to prevent employers from getting around WARN’s notice requirements by conducting a series of smaller layoffs over time.

Maine Law

Maine’s plant closing law applies whenever a covered employer discontinues its business or relocates its business operations at least 100 miles distant.

Required Notice

If a layoff or plant closing is covered by WARN or Maine law, employees who will lose their jobs are entitled to notice 60 days in advance. (Employees who are union members need not receive individual notice; instead, the employer must notify their bargaining reps, who are expected to pass the information along to the affected employees.)

The notice must provide specified information about the planned layoffs, including whether they are expected to be temporary or permanent, the expected date when the layoffs will begin and when the employee will receive a termination letter, and whether the employee will have bumping rights.

Exceptions

In some situations, an employer either does not have to give notice at all or can give less than 60 days’ notice. Under Maine law, the only exception is for job losses due to physical calamity. WARN recognizes a number of exceptions, however.

No Notice Required

WARN does not apply to temporary or seasonal employees or to temporary projects that are completed, as long as the employees knew when hired that the jobs were for a limited time. It also doesn’t apply to job losses occasioned by strikes or lockouts.

Shorter Notice Allowed

Under the federal WARN Act, employers may comply with WARN by giving as much notice as they can (even if they give less than 60 days’ notice) in a few situations. If an employer relies on one of these exceptions, it must give as much notice as possible and must state (as part of the written notice requirement) why it couldn’t give the full 60 days that would otherwise be required.

  • Unforeseeable business circumstances. If the business circumstances leading to the plant closing or layoff were not reasonably foreseeable when the employer should have given 60 days’ notice, a shorter notice period is allowed.
  • Faltering company. If a company is struggling financially when it should have given 60 days’ notice, it can give a shorter period of notice. However, the company must show that it was actively seeking business or money that would have allowed it to postpone or avoid the plant closing altogether, and that it reasonably believed, in good faith, that giving 60 days’ notice would have precluded it from obtaining the necessary business or money. This exception applies only to plant closings, not mass layoffs.
  • Natural disasters. If the layoff or plant closing results from a natural disaster, the employer is allowed to give less than 60 days’ notice.

Severance Pay Under Maine Law

Maine is one of the few states that gives employees the right to benefits when they lose their jobs in a relocation or business closure. Employers must provide one week of severance pay for each year of employment to all employees who have worked for the employer for at least three years.

If Your Rights Have Been Violated

If you believe your rights under WARN or Maine’s plant closing law have been violated, you should consult with an experienced Maine employment lawyer. WARN includes the right to attorney fees if you win, so it provides an incentive for lawyers to take strong cases. However, the damages available to any one employee are relatively low. Therefore, a lawyer may advise either trying to negotiate a settlement or going forward on behalf of all affected employees, as part of a class action lawsuit.

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