A bill being considered by the Maine legislature would allow alleged victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking to take a ‘reasonable’ time off work.
The time off proposed in the bill would be for health reasons (such as seeking treatment), or participation in criminal or legal proceedings. This new right, if enacted, would also apply to both full- and part-time jobs.
Relatives of alleged victims could also get time off to help in legal proceedings, get social services help or counseling for family members, and also – like the alleged victim - be eligible for paid or unpaid time off. The bill requires that advance notice be given to the employer by the person using the right, except in an emergency – when the employee can give notice before the end of the day of absence.
In turn, employers would be entitled to ask for ‘verification’ of the allegation (from a police report, court order, information from a prosecutor or other lawyer, an advocate, clergyman, or medical professional). It would have to be given in a ‘timely manner’, though this is not specified. For family members of alleged victims seeking time off, additional verification would be required of the relationship. Those eligible to take time off could use vacation or sick days that are compensated, take time owed (comp days), or be unpaid.
According to the bill, employers would be obliged to hold the position, or restore the employee to one that is similar, with no loss of benefits for time off or loss of medical insurance. They are also barred from dismissing the employee, threatening dismissal (or loss of a promotion), harassing the person seeking time off, or discipline them for exercising this right.
The bill would also allow employees to sue for non-financial remedies (called equitable relief) in court if an employer breached its provisions. Agency-employed staff, or those on project contracts that have ended are not covered under the bill.
The bill would need to be enacted to become law. Its progress can be checked on this link.