From staff reports

The Maine Department of Labor is reminding businesses of new laws that concern domestic violence, social media and business-purchasing options that took effect Thursday.

The changes affect two labor laws that now carry potential fines for employers, a law that updates safety and health requirements for public sector employers, a new option for unemployment tax rates for businesses changing owners, and expanded access to wage information about debtor scofflaws.

n Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking, and their families, can now take “reasonable and necessary leave from employment.” But if the leave is denied for reasons not in accordance with the law, a fine of $1,000 for each violation can now be imposed against the employer, according to the Maine DOL. Also, employers could be held liable for damages, including back pay if the employee is terminated.

n Another aspect of this new law restricts employers’ use of personal social media or email accounts of employees and applicants. With some exceptions, employers may not terminate, discipline or otherwise take adverse action against an employee or an applicant who refuses to cooperate with any prohibited request or demand. The new law provides fines of $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second and not less than $500 for each subsequent violation.

n For people who have been ordered by a court to repay a debt, a new law allows the creditor to obtain Department of Labor wage information about the debtor if he or she has not met the requirements of an installment payment order.

n Reporting requirements for injury or death of a public sector employee have also changed. Under the prior law, a person in charge of a workplace was required to report in writing or by telephone to the director of the Bureau of Labor Standards the death of any person in the workplace or a serious workplace physical injury requiring hospitalization. The new law requires a report by telephone or electronically, and amends the definition of “serious physical injury,” among other changes.

n Unemployment tax rate assignments have changed in situations where someone buys an existing business. Depending on whether the new owner is an established employer, he or she may be able to retain more favorable tax rates from the predecessor’s operation, or carry over a more favorable rate from their own operations.

n The recently enacted concealed weapons law does not affect employers’ legal responsibilities. They still are allowed to prohibit firearms on their premises, with the exception of parking lots. Current law reads: “An employer or an agent of an employer may not prohibit an employee who has a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm under Title 25, chapter 252 from keeping a firearm in the employee’s vehicle as long as the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible.” This provision was not affected by the changes to the concealed weapons permitting law passed in 2015.

Additional details about these changes can be found at or by calling 623-7900.

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