Maine Law Court issues groundbreaking discrimination opinion

by Peter D. Lowe and Connor Beatty

On Thursday, January 30, Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court issued a groundbreaking and controversial decision. The Law Court ruled that a school district discriminated against one of its students when it told the student she couldn’t use the female restroom because she is transgendered. Although this decision directly affects places of public accommodation, it also may have major ramifications for employers. The decision calls into question whether it’s permissible to have separate-sex bathrooms at all under current law.

Background

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New Maine law on independent contractors goes into effect December 31

by Peter D. Lowe

Maine employers need to pay attention to a new Maine law on the definition of “independent contractor” that goes into effect December 31.

Legislative Document 1314, passed in Maine earlier this year, outlines two sets of conditions that must be in place for an individual to qualify as an independent contractor for purposes of workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation. In the first tier of criteria, to meet the definition of an independent contractor, an individual must:

  • Have the “essential” right to control the particulars of the work (except the final results);
  • Be engaged in an “independently established” business;
  • Have the opportunity to experience either a profit or a loss as a result of the services performed;
  • Hire, pay, and supervise the work of any assistants; and
  • Make his services available to other clients or consumers in the community.

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Maine passes gay marriage initiative

by Peter D. Lowe

On Tuesday, 53 percent of Mainers voted to allow same-sex marriage. Question 1, which asked “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” was an indirect initiative. That means that because supporters collected the required number of signatures by January 2012 and the Maine Legislature failed to pass the bill in the first half of the year, the question was put up for a popular vote. Significantly, the referendum reverses the position that Mainers took in 2009 in a similar referendum and marks the first time in U.S. history that same-sex marriage has been enacted by popular vote.

Maine should see the effects of the vote very early next year. The secretary of state has 20 days to approve election results before sending them along to the governor, who must certify them within 10 days. The law goes into effect 30 days after being certified—likely sometime in January 2013. Be on the lookout for an article discussing how this could affect your workplace in the next issue of Maine Employment Law Letter.

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Court Ruling in Defense of Marriage Act Case Leaves Uncertainty for Employers

June 01, 2012 - by: HR Hero Alerts 1 COMMENTS

By Kathy Carlson

A federal appeals court in Massachusetts ruled Thursday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it prevents same-sex married couples from receiving benefits available to heterosexual married couples. The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled that in enacting DOMA, the federal government was intruding into domestic relations law, which states have historically regulated.

The appeals court itself acknowledged that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to address the issue, and the ruling won’t take effect pending appeal. The case examined only DOMA’s definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman and not a separate provision saying states need not recognize same-sex marriages legally contracted elsewhere. Even if the ruling went into effect, it would cover only the 1st Circuit, which includes Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island.

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Maine Tightens Up Law on Service Animals

September 20, 2011 - by: HR Hero Alerts 1 COMMENTS

Until recently, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations were quite broad in their definition of “service animal,” but that changed earlier this year. Now Maine, which had kept the definition loose in state law, also is tightening up on what constitutes a service animal.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations not only for employees with disabilities but also for customers with disabilities. Employers that operate retail stores, banks, service centers, and other locations open to the public are probably places of public accommodation under the law.

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Maine: Red Tide Causes ‘Sea Change’

November 04, 2010 - by: HR Hero Alerts 0 COMMENTS

by Daniel C. Stockford, Brann & Isaacson

While voters handily reelected both of Maine’s Democratic representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, a sea change occurred at the state level as the Maine governorship and the Maine Legislature apparently have switched from Democratic to Republican control.

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What Maine Election Results Mean for Employers

November 03, 2010 - by: HR Hero Alerts 0 COMMENTS

By Daniel C. Stockford

While voters handily reelected both of Maine’s Democratic representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, a sea change occurred at the state level as the governorship and the legislature apparently have switched from Democratic to Republican control.

In a surprisingly close governor’s race, Republican Paul LePage appears to have narrowly held off a late surge by Independent candidate Eliot Cutler while trouncing Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell. But the big surprise was in the Maine Legislature, as control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives appears to be going to the Republicans.

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