Maine Law Amended to Coordinate and Enforce Existing Workplace Training Requirements

 

During Maine’s 128th First Regular Session, Title 26 M.R.S.A. § 807 was amended to better coordinate and enforce existing workplace sexual harassment training requirements. As the law went into effect on November 1, 2017, employers should review the changes summarized herein and make revisions to their existing policies as necessary.

 

Summary of Changes

 

Subsection 1 was amended such that the posters employers must display describing sexual harassment and the fact that it is illegal, in addition to describing the complaint process and how to file a complaint, may now be provided by the Maine Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) free of charge. Additionally, the Department of Labor (the “Department”) is now required to have this poster be publicly available on its website.

 

Subsection 3 was amended to simply require, rather than require at a minimum, the components of the training program all employers employing 15 or more employees must conduct within one year of employment commencement. All of the components of the training program remain the same.

 

Subsection 4 is a new addition to the law and requires the Department to develop a “compliance checklist” for employers with 15 or more employees who are attempting to comply with subsection 3. This checklist, like the poster, must be made publicly accessible on the Department’s website. Furthermore, the Commission must provide a link to the checklist on its publicly accessible website. Employers with 15 or more employees must use the checklist to develop their sexual harassment training program, document the training program, and maintain a record of those employees who complete the program. This documentation must be retained for at least three (3) years and, upon Department request, must be made available for review.

 

Subsection 5 is a new enforcement provision that directs the Department to enforce the employee notification requirements stated in subsection 2 and ensure that employers have provided training to their employees as required by subsection 3. Should the Department determine that an employer has fully complied with the notification, education, and training requirements, its determination and enforcement actions will be final. However, Department actions will in no way affect the Commission’s authority and jurisdiction. Subsection 5 also provides that, in response to a complaint filed pursuant to this subsection, the Commission may request Department enforcement records related to that complaint, which are subject to subsection 3.

 

Finally, subsection 6, another new addition to the law, sets forth repercussions for failure to adhere to the requirements set forth in this law:

 

  • With respect to violations of the workplace posting requirement: an employer’s first violation may result in a fine of up to $25 per day, not to exceed $1,000; a second violation within three years of a prior violation may result in a fine not less than $25 and up to $50 per day, not to exceed $2,500; and a third or subsequent violation occurring within three years of two or more violations may result in a fine not less than $25 and up to $100 per day, not to exceed $5,000.

 

  • With respect to violations of the notification, education, or training requirements: an employer’s first violation may result in a $1,000 fine; an employer’s second violation may result in a $2,500 fine; and an employer’s 3rd or subsequent violation may result in a $5,000 fine.

 

Conclusion

 

The changes to this law are an attempt to strengthen existing workplace training programs, encourage consistency across employers through the use of a comprehensive checklist, and ensure accountability by enforcing repercussions for failure to comply with the new requirements. Implementation throughout the state will better educate Maine’s workforce about sexual harassment, while employer commitment will more effectively prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact Steve Johnson, Esq. (sjohnson@kozakgayer.com), Mike Burian, Esq. (mburian@kozakgayer.com), or Taylor Fawns, Esq. (tfawns@kozakgayer.com), at (207) 621-4390 if you have questions regarding any of these changes, or if you would like us to review and update your organization’s sexual harassment policy and workplace training requirements.