In addition to the leave provided by your employer’s discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and Maine laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Maine law provides additional leave rights, including the right to time off for domestic violence leave, military family leave, and more.
This article provides an overview of your right to time off from work in Maine. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from a family member’s military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military family leave provision only, employees may take leave to care for a broader set of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to employers in all states with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible only if they have worked for the employer for 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. (Learn much more about your rights under the FMLA at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Some states have created laws that provide employees with leave for family and medical reasons. Sometimes these laws overlap with the FMLA and don’t create additional rights. Often, however, state law applies to a wider set of employers, has more relaxed eligibility requirements for employees, or covers a broader set of family members. Maine's family and medical leave laws apply to employers that are not covered by the FMLA.
In Maine, employers with at least 15 employees must allow employees to take up to ten weeks off in a two-year period for the following purposes:
Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 consecutive months and work at a site with at least 15 employees. Maine’s family and medical leave law covers the same family members as the FMLA, plus domestic partners, children of domestic partners, and siblings.
Maine also requires employers with at least 15 employees to provide military family leave. Employees are entitled to this leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months.
An employee who is the spouse, domestic partner, or parent of a Maine resident who has been deployed for military service lasting longer than 180 days may take up to 15 days off per deployment:
Another federal law, the Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. (Find out all about USERRA in Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. Employers also may not fire these employees for up to one year after they return from service, except for good cause, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state’s military, including the right to take time off from work and to be reinstated afterwards. In Maine, employees who are members of the state National Guard or reserves may take unpaid leave, with reinstatement, in response to state or federal military orders. Employers may not discriminate against employees because of their connection or service with the National Guard or reserves.
Employers must continue employee health, dental, and life insurance benefits for the first 30 days of military service, at no extra cost to the employee. After 30 days, the employee may continue these benefits at his or her own expense, at the employer’s group rate.
Maine law also gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of serving on a jury. Employees may not lose or be threatened with the loss of employment or health insurance coverage as a result of serving on a jury.
Time off to serve on a jury is unpaid. However, special rules apply to exempt employees. Under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee’s pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. For more information, see our article on pay docking.
Many states also require employers to give employees time off, often with pay, to vote. However, Maine does not have this type of law.
All employers in Maine must allow employees to take time off if they, or a parent, spouse, or child, have been a victim of violence, assault, sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence. Employees may take time off to:
Employees may take as much leave as is “reasonable and necessary.” An employer does not have to grant leave if the employee’s absence would cause undue hardship, if the employee does not request leave within a reasonable time under the circumstances, or if leave is impractical, unreasonable, or unnecessary under the circumstances.