Maine has enacted two bills (Legislative Document 1319 and Legislative Document 886) that will expand requirements for providing time off to emergency responders. These laws take effect September 19, 2019.
Currently, Maine prohibits employers from taking adverse action against volunteer firefighters who miss work because they are responding to an emergency. The law includes rules on employee notice, eligibility, and certification for such leave.
Effective September 19, 2019, Legislative Document 1319 and Legislative Document 886 will also protect the following groups from adverse action:
· Volunteer emergency medical services personnel who respond to an emergency; and
· Certified volunteer search and rescue workers who respond to a search and rescue operation requested by a law enforcement agency.
The laws also include rules on employee notice, eligibility, and certification for the leave (see below), some of which differ from the current rules for volunteer firefighters.
The laws require that an employee responding to an emergency or search and rescue operation make every effort to notify their employer immediately if they will miss work. Notification may be provided by the employee or a designee, the fire department, the emergency medical services provider, or search and rescue supervisor.
Note: Employees must notify their employer of any change in their volunteer status within 30 days of the change.
To be eligible for such leave:
· The chief of the fire department, emergency medical services provider, or recognized search and rescue organizer must have a written policy that:
o Specifies the circumstances under which volunteers are needed to respond to an emergency or search and rescue operation; and
o Affirms that volunteers will be released as soon as practicable; and
· The employee must present a copy of the policy to the employer within 30 days of their start date or within 180 days of September 19, 2019.
Upon receiving notice of an employee’s volunteer status, the employer may designate the employee as essential to the employer’s operations because their absence would cause significant disruption of the business. To be valid, this designation must be made in writing and signed by both the employee and employer. If there is a valid designation, the employer isn’t required to provide such leave.
To verify eligibility for leave, employers may require employees to provide certification that they were responding to an emergency or a search and rescue operation and the date, time, and duration of the response.
Maine employers should review policies and practices to ensure compliance with Legislative Document 1319 and Legislative Document 886.
Please contact your dedicated service professional with any questions.