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Bipartisan bill in Maine legislature to study paid family medical leave proposal

Maine legislators held a hearing this week on a bipartisan bill to explore the feasibility of an employee-financed paid family medical leave system.  House Majority Leader Erin Herbig (D-Belfast) and Sen. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) have co-sponsored the bill.  Herbig and Volk previously sponsored a bill to establish an employee-financed paid family medical leave system but they are now backing this new bill which would just study how much such a system would cost.

The original paid family medical leave bill that Herbig and Volk sponsored would have financed paid family leave with a maximum 0.5% pay deduction from employees’ pay.  It would not have required businesses with fewer than 15 employees to participate but would give them the option to participate if they wanted.

“Creating a paid family leave medical system on the shoulders of our businesses would not benefit anyone. This bill has never proposed to do that,” said Herbig. “There isn’t an easy fix but I’m tired of spinning our wheels when there are small steps we can take to creating a cost-effective, paid family medical leave system in Maine that works for both families and businesses across our state.”

Rhode Island has a system similar to the system that Herbig and Volk have proposed.  In Rhode Island, employees finance both a temporary disability insurance (TDI) system and a temporary caregiver insurance (TCI) system.  TDI, which has been in existence in Rhode Island since 1942, pays employees for leave that they need to take from work due to a temporary disability or injury.  TCI, which was enacted in 2014, pays employees when they need to care for a family member with a seriously ill family member or to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.

New York, California, and New Jersey have joined Rhode Island in recent years in providing paid family medical leave.

Currently, Maine and federal law only require employers to provide unpaid family and medical leave in certain circumstances.  Many employees cannot afford to take unpaid leave from work and, thus, these leave entitlements provide little assistance to them.  And employees who take unpaid family medical leave sometimes work for employers who interfere with their right to take such leave or retaliate against employees who exercise their rights.

The attorneys at the Maine Employee Rights Group have helped scores of employees with family medical leave disputes.  If your employer is violating your right to take family medical leave, contact us to learn more about your rights.