AUGUSTA. MAINE - Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette has issued a reminder about the laws that protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in employment situations.
"October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month," said Governor Paul R. LePage. "However, domestic abuse isn't an issue that we should pay attention to only one month during the year - it's a topic that targets victims every day. The Department of Labor offers protections to workers or their family members who are victims of domestic violence when they need to take time away from work to get help. Maine employers are compassionate towards victims of abuse, but everyone should be aware of these protections."
"State law offers protections for workers who need to take leave from work and also for workers who need to leave their job in order to start over in a safe place," stated Commissioner Paquette. "If you have to leave your job because of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, you may be able to file for unemployment benefits as you look for new employment. If you or a loved one is in any of these situations, you should contact the department to learn about your rights under the law."
Under Maine's employment laws, an employee who is a victim of domestic violence must be allowed time off from work with or without pay to prepare for and attend court proceedings, receive medical treatment or obtain necessary services to remedy a crisis caused by domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The employee must request the time off. Leave must also be allowed if the employee's child, parent or spouse is the victim.
Under recent changes that went into effect in October 2015, the worker must report the suspected violation to the Department of Labor within six months of the denial of leave. If the department finds that the worker should have been granted leave, a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation may be assessed against the employer. In addition, the employer is liable for liquidated damages in an amount equal to three times the amount of total assessed fines. If the worker was found to have been terminated in violation of the law, the worker may elect either the liquidated damages or reemployment with the employer with back wages.
If a worker needs to quit their job due issues related to being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, that person might be eligible for unemployment benefits, and the employer's experience rating will not be charged. If the worker has made all reasonable efforts to keep the job but voluntarily leaves work to avoid domestic abuse, the worker may be eligible to file for unemployment benefits. A worker may not be disqualified from receiving benefits because of misconduct if the worker's actions were based solely on the need to protect herself (himself) or an immediate family member from domestic violence, and she made all reasonable efforts to keep the job.
Maine CareerCenters are available to assist victims look for new employment. Visit http://www.mainecareercenter.com for locations.
Call the department at (207) 623-7900 for answers to questions about these laws or to obtain a copy of the laws. An optional labor law poster about these statutes is available at no charge for downloading or printing at http://www.maine.gov/labor/posters/index.html .
The Maine Department of Labor is an equal opportunity provider. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.