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Business and Economy

Paid Leave Law, Minimum Wage Increase Go Into Effect In New Year

A new law goes into effect on Friday that allows employees at many Maine businesses to earn up to 40 hours of paid leave a year, for use as either sick or vacation time.

Maine Director of the Bureau of Labor Standards Michael Roland says it’s unique in the U.S., and was deliberately designed that way.

“So that a worker can take time off to be with their family, to take a vacation — or if they’re sick, or their child is sick, or their daycare is closed, or if there’s a snowstorm, or if their car breaks down or for any of those reasons that happen in real life,” he says.

The law covers people who work part time or full time at organizations with more than 10 employees. Workers earn an hour of leave for every 40 hours worked, up to the 40 hour limit. Independent contractors aren’t covered.

“Unless they’re misclassified, which is possible, they’re not entitled to that protection, or unemployment insurance, or workers comp, or a number of other things,” Roland says.

He says people shouldn’t try to figure out the law themselves, and should reach out if they’re not sure.

“If they’re uncertain about whether they’re coming either as an employer or employee, they should contact us at the DOL,” Roland says.

For unionized workplaces, current contracts can remain as they are — but the next contract union members agree to must be in compliance with the new law.

Also in effect on Friday is an annual increase in the state’s minimum wage. It will be $12.15 an hour for nontipped employees in 2021, up from $12 an hour.