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Legislative Updates You Need To Know

September 20, 2019

Legislative Updates You Need to Know

There are several legislative updates that may affect your business.  Many bills that were passed in this most recent session of the Maine Legislature will go into effect next Thursday, September 19.  As we all know, not being aware of a law is not an excuse for non-compliance.  Therefore I wanted to highlight some of the bills that go into effect next week, and also highlight a few other bills that got passed but won’t go into effect until next year or 2021 due to a need for additional rule making.  Here we go, in no particular order:

Changes to Worker’s Comp  (LD 756) (Takes effect primarily January 1, 2020)
Likely one of the most impactful changes is to the 1992 Worker’s Compensation bill.  I don’t presume to know all of the changes so I strongly encourage you to look up the LD number yourself so you are prepared.  As I can devise from it, most of the changes will take place for injuries after January 1, 2020.  A few pieces that stuck out to me include:
- Partial incapacity duration was increased from 10 years to 12 years (from 520 weeks up to 624 weeks)
- New 60-day notification period.  Pre-1993, it was 30 days, moved to 90 days after 1993, then dropped to 30 after 2013 changes and is now 60 days. 
- Cost of living changes got included for permanent incapacities.
- Death benefits, if there is no dependent, goes to parents for 500 weeks. 

Again, I am not a lawyer, but these are some of the key takeaways as I understand them

Interviews: You Can Not Ask About Salary History (LD 278) (Effective September 19)
This change is significant due to the penalty which now is “unlimited compensatory damages” for a per se violation. It’s an easy mistake to make so be sure that you don’t.  According to a few lawyers who presented the information, generally Employment Practices Liability does not cover this violation.  Lastly, if a candidate volunteers the information it is suggested that the employer makes extemporaneous notes and puts them in the employee’s file in case this arises as a “she said-she said” style termination case. 

Earned Employee Leave (LD 369) (Effective January 1, 2021)
There is much more rulemaking to be done on this, thus the effective date, but this law will require 1 hour of time off for every 40 hours worked.  Now this is not the Paid Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).   This bill will be for employers of 10+ employees and leave hours don’t accrue until after 120 days of employment.   

Non-Compete Agreements and Non- Poaching Agreements  (LD 733)(Effective September 19)
Non-competes are no longer valid for employees making less than 400% of federal poverty level (essentially $50,ooo for a single person household, $67,000 for a two-person household).  NCAs are still acceptable for incomes above that but it’s a bit unclear about what is protected beyond trade secrets, confidential information and goodwill.  The new rules state there must be advanced notice (meaning prior to hire and not after being hired) and a delay in implementing the agreement until up to a year after employment begins).  Non-poaching agreements (meaning an agreement between competing franchise owners that agree not to poach one another’s employees in the same field) are essentially voided. 

Clarifications to Provisions of the Maine Human Rights Act (LD 1701)(September 19) & Pregnancy & Nursing Workers Protected (LD 666)(September 19)
- There has been an expansion of protected class status for those that are engaged in activities on behalf of those in a protected class, other than family members and relatives.  Essentially this appears to cover activists. 

- Assistance animals: the definition now includes “An animal that has been determined necessary for an individual with a physical or mental disability to mitigate the effects of a physical or mental disability by a physician, psychologist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or , licensed social worker , licensed professional counselor or other licensed health professional with knowledge of the disability-related need for an assistance animal”- thus it appears nearly all HCP can approve assistance animal needs. 

- Gender Identification is fully protected

- Single occupancy toilets cannot have gender designations, and should be labeled as restroom, toilet or bathroom. 

- Pregnancy is now a protected class along with nursing parents

Energy & Environment Changes (Multiple LDs and Effective Dates)
- LD 1401- Renewable Energy Investment Study (report to be released by Dec. 15, 2019 with recommendations)
- LD 1614- Energy Storage Study (report due by Dec. 4, 2019)

- LD 1646- (CARRY OVER) A bill to consider taking over Maine’s Power Delivery Systems from CMP and Emera (costs would be substantial to buy the infrastructure from those private companies- if passed Maine would run the power delivery system just like it runs Turnpike authority, as an example). 
- LD 1844 is an evaluation committee from PUC hired consultants to determine the feasibility of LD 1644  (report due February 15, 2020)

- LD 1494- Renewable Energy requirements for energy producers with goals of 10% currently to 50% by 2030, and up to 100% by 2050.  This includes clean hydro, and I’m unclear if this includes or is addition to a 30% requirement already in place.  If so it could mean 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.  (effective date September 19, 2019)

-LD 1679- Creates a Maine Climate Council

- Styrofoam Bans (LD 289) With few exceptions (shipping seafood or hospitals)  polystyrene foam will be banned for food establishments by January 1, 2021. 

- LD 1532- Single Use Plastic Carry Out bags are banned as of April 22, 2020. 

- LD 955- Prohibits Offshore Oil and Natural Gas Drilling & Exploration

Other Issues to Keep an Eye on in the Short Session in 2020
- Waste/Landfill Issues- LD 401 will tackle landfill use and capacity as it relates to recyclable materials.

- LD 1433 deals with phthalates and PFAS chemicals and goes into effect 2022 with perhaps other chemicals being added to the list

- LD 946- Internet Privacy
This is going to be a big one.  I’m still trying to get all of the details and how it will effect businesses but essentially there are new regulations for Internet Service Providers that was passed this session and more is expected to happen with this bill for Edge providers (think Facebook).  This will make the internet experience differ for people depending on if they are logging into a Maine-based IP address or one in say, Vermont (to randomly select another state without these rules).  How exactly will this differ- I can’t speak confidently enough about that yet, but members like Comcast can speak much more intelligently on that. 
This was pitched to me as a ‘first in the nation’ bill so the impacts are unknown but some people in this industry are telling me it’s going to make things difficult for some businesses.  I will update you when I know more, but essentially it seems that people need to opt in to receive information from certain sites and also that geo fencing (where a consumer gets pop ups of ‘things of interest in your area’ based on where you are located) will be effected.  Again, I don’t know even 10% of what all of this means, other than, the people I trust tell me this is an issue we need to keep an eye on.

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