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SMMC - Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber

06/11/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/11/2021 11:33

POLICY: Maine State Chamber Update on LD 533- Employment at Will

Maine's business
community remains
strongly opposed
to LD 553

On Thursday evening, June 10, the Maine House of Representatives took up LD 553, An Act to End Employment at Will, for initial debate. After a spirited 45-minute discussion, the House overwhelmingly rejected the proposal (99-35). The rebuke of the majority report was significant for the amount of bi-partisan support it received. To see how your local legislators voted, you can find the Roll Call here.

Unfortunately, the action did not stop here. The House chair of the Labor and Housing committee then moved the second 'ought to pass' report, which directs the Maine Department of Labor and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to pull together a stakeholder group to study the impact of eliminating employment-at-will in Maine. The group is directed to gather information, make recommendations, and suggest legislation to the full legislature by February 15, 2022.

With little debate, the House narrowly approved the motion (71-63). Again, to see where your legislators landed on this motion, you can find the roll call here.

The bill now heads to the Senate for their consideration. While we are pleased that the House rejected the very egregious Majority Report, we remain absolutely opposed to any study on the issue of employment-at-will.

A study just keeps this issue hanging over the head of our state for the next year - or longer - and will negatively impact Maine's efforts to attract new jobs and opportunities for our citizens. The threat of ending employment-at-will only serves to impede our ability to recover from the effects of the pandemic, and more importantly, the implementation of Governor Janet Mills' 10-year Economic Strategic Plan. We are urging the Maine State Senate to vote 'Ought Not to Pass' on LD 553.

We also are urging individual Maine employers to continue to contact their legislators as soon as possible to voice their opposition to any version of LD 553. The Maine Senate will likely vote on LD 553 as soon as Monday, June 14 when legislators are scheduled to reconvene.

CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY AND URGE THEM TO OPPOSE LD 553!

The following organizations are asking you to contact your legislators and urge their opposition to LD 553: Associated Builders & Contractors (Maine Chapter); Associated General Contractors of Maine; American Council of Engineering Companies (Maine Chapter); Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce; Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce; Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce; Franklin County Chamber of Commerce; Hospitality Maine; Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce; Maine Aggregate Association; Maine Association of Insurance Companies; Maine Auto Dealers Association; Maine Bankers Association; Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association; Maine Better Transportation Association; Maine Beverage Association; Maine Campground Owners Association; Maine Dental Association; Maine Energy Marketers Association; Maine Forest Products Council; Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association; Maine Hospital Association; Maine Insurance Agents Association; Maine Jobs Council; Maine Motor Transport Association; Maine Pellet Fuels Association; Maine Society of Land Surveyors; Maine Sporting Camp Association; Maine Staffing Association; Maine State Chamber of Commerce; Maine State Golf Association; Maine Tourism Association; Maine Youth Camp Association; Manufacturers Association of Maine; Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce; NFIB Maine; Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce; Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce; Professional Logging Contractors of Maine; Retail Association of Maine; Retail Lumber Dealers Association of Maine; Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce; Ski Maine Association; Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce; and, Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

LD 553 would prohibit an employer with five or more employees from terminating the employment of an employee without just cause. The bill specifies an employer may - with limited exceptions - terminate an employee only after applying a written three-step progressive discipline policy, documenting each step in writing and providing written notice of termination in accordance with certain requirements. LD 553 also includes a private right for aggrieved employees to sue employers. The bill also eliminates references to 'at-will employment' in current law.

Why Maine's Business Community Strongly Opposes the Majority Ought to Pass Report LD 553:

LD 553 proposes a seismic shift in decades of employment policy and law in Maine - restructuring Maine's current at-will system - a system with no widespread reports of abuse regarding employment discharges to our knowledge.

LD 553 would impose a costly, burdensome, complicated, and litigious discipline and termination process for all but Maine's smallest employers - the types of provisions that are part of job-security collective bargaining contracts negotiated between management and labor, where workers are unionized.

Even LD 553's proposed amendment provides little to no clarity on critical issues and would open the door to increased litigation against employers. 'Pay-to-settle' could become the new lament of employers.

LD 553 would restrict employers' broad latitude in managing their organizations.

The present state of the law is that courts may not second-guess an employer's legitimate business decisions regarding hiring and discharge of employees. This law would flip that presumption on its head. Courts would routinely be tasked with assessing business decisions and adjudicating terminations.

A variety of protections that limit an employer's right to discharge already exists for employees under federal and Maine anti-discrimination laws. LD 553 is not designed to prevent discrimination; LD 553 is designed to provide job security for all workers and throw hurdles in front of an employer's ability to effectively manage a workforce.

Forty-eight other states follow the at-will employment doctrine, but LD 553 would make Maine an outlier. LD 553 is a solution looking for a problem and begs more questions than it answers. It would dramatically increase the cost of doing business in Maine and friction between employers and employees.

Maine's economic future depends on a healthy environment for business investment and job creation. In December 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Governor's 10-year Strategic Plan was released outlining plans to create a stronger economy. More recently, the Governor's Economic Recovery Committee released its report on recovering from setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic. However, lobsters, mountains, lakes, coastline beauty and quality of life will not be strong enough to overcome the hostile environment toward jobs that LD 553 would create.

Why Maine's Business Community Strongly Opposes the Minority Ought to Pass Report LD 553:

Any study just keeps this issue hanging over the head of our state for the next year - or longer - and will negatively impact our efforts to attract new jobs and opportunities for our citizens. The threat of ending employment-at-will only serves to impede our ability to recover from the effects of the pandemic, and more importantly, the implementation of Governor Mills 10-year Economic Strategic Plan. We are urging the Maine State Senate to vote Ought Not to Pass on LD 553.