Like the mission of the Starship Enterprise into the unknown, the Maine paid leave law boldly goes where no leave law has gone before by requiring employers to allow employees to accrue paid time off which may be used for any reason. If Democratic Governor Janet Mills, who supports the law, signs the Maine Earned Paid Leave Law or simply does not act on it, the law will be enacted within days. It applies to employers with at least ten employees and is effective on January 1, 2021. For reasons that are unclear to me, employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are not entitled to leave under this law “during the period between January 1, 2021 and the expiration of the agreement,” which could be years after non-represented employees are receiving leave under the law.
Because of its “any reason” provision, the law is not technically a paid sick and safe leave law, though I will include it in my list of PSL resources. It is a PTO law which, I suspect, will have covered Maine employers revisiting their PTO policies.
While Maine may be first to enact an “any reason” earned leave law, it was not the first to consider such a law. In 2017, Maryland Governor Hogan, faced with pressure to enact a PSL bill, proposed the Commonsense Paid Leave Act, which would have allowed employees to accrue paid time off that could be used for any reason. The legislature rejected the Commonsense approach and passed a PSL bill instead. Earlier this year, Presidential candidate NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed legislation to make NYC the first city in the nation to require employers to provide employees paid vacation.
For those concerned that the Maine law might open yet another patchwork in the paid leave mosaic, you are spot-on. One need not look too deeply into one’s crystal ball to see a list of municipalities and perhaps even a few states that will be eager to follow Maine’s lead. Watch for bills to amend PSL laws to delete the often lengthy and specific “allowed uses” provision and replace it with two words: “any reason.”