Maine lawmakers have signed off on worker protections — now they must fund their implementation

Through 2023 and 2024, the Maine legislature passed seven bills to improve Mainers’ rights at work — but these bills won’t become law unless the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA) allocates funding needed to enforce the new protections. Maine Center for Economic Policy urges lawmakers to finish the job and ensure these bills are funded in 2024 so workers are paid fairly, their time is respected, and they have their privacy protected at work.

Five bills have minimal public costs and could be easily funded:

LD 741, “An Act to Prohibit Certain Training Repayment Agreements by Employers” would prevent employers from holding workers liable for the costs of job-specific training. Currently, these agreements place financial burdens on workers and can trap them in jobs when they can’t afford to repay the training fees.

LD 827, “An Act to Allow Employees to Request Flexible Work Schedules” would require an employer to consider a request for a mutually agreeable flexible work arrangement. This would help workers balance work-life requirements.

LD 936, “An Act to Require Employers to Disclose Pay Ranges and Maintain Records of Employees’ Pay History” would require employers with at least 10 employees to include pay ranges with job advertisements and to make pay ranges available to existing workers. This would improve worker bargaining power and reduce racial and gender disparities in pay.

LD 949, “An Act to Protect Workers from Employer Surveillance” would require employers to provide notice to their workers if they are engaging in any form of workplace surveillance. This would prevent employers from secretly violating workers’ privacy.

LD 1190, “An Act to Require Minimum Pay for Reporting to Work” would require employers with at least 10 employees pay workers at least two hours’ pay if a worker is called in, even if they are ultimately not asked to work that shift. This will prevent the practice of overscheduling which wastes employees’ time and causes them to incur costs like driving or babysitting.

The Maine Department of Labor would have the authority to enforce these new laws whether or not they are passed with fiscal notes; however, given the ongoing need for more resources to effectively enforce our labor laws, legislators should appropriate the modest amount of funding associated with these important worker protections.

AFA is also in possession of two bills with larger fiscal notes that would significantly improve the lives of Maine workers by providing overtime and minimum wage protections:

LD 513, “An Act Regarding Overtime Protections for Certain Salaried Employees” would raise the threshold below which salaried workers are automatically considered overtime eligible. Under current law, most salaried workers who earn less than 3,000 times the state’s minimum wage are automatically entitled to overtime pay (at 1.5 times their usual rate) if they work more than 40 hours per week. In 2025, that would likely be $43,500. Under LD 513, this number would rise to just over $55,000 a year, mirroring a proposed federal regulation which may or may not come into effect depending on the outcome of elections and court cases (a similar federal rule was abandoned in 2017). MECEP estimates this change would make an additional 19,000 salaried workers in Maine eligible for overtime protections.1 This bill carries a cost to state government of $2.8 million per year on an ongoing basis, to pay overtime to state workers who are newly eligible. State workers have been underpaid and overworked for years and making more of them eligible for overtime could help with ongoing staffing shortages.

LD 1376, “An Act to Increase the State Minimum Wage to $15 per Hour” would raise Maine’s minimum wage, which is currently $14.15 per hour and likely to rise to $14.50 per hour in 2025, to $15 per hour. This would increase the wages of an estimated 115,000 workers in Maine, who would get a collective raise of $97 million per year.2 The bill would particularly benefit the approximately 25,000 Mainers working in the state’s direct care sector, most of whom are paid indirectly through MaineCare, Maine’s Medicaid program. MaineCare rates for direct care assume a labor cost of 125 percent of the state’s minimum wage, so an increase to the minimum wage indirectly translates to an increase in wages for workers in this chronically-short-staffed sector. The estimated cost of this bill is expected to be just under $8 million in fiscal year 2024/5.

The bills listed above have all passed the Maine House and Senate — they have the broad support needed to become law. And all except one, LD 513, passed the legislature in 2023 but were not chosen for funding off the Special Appropriations Table that year. Now AFA has a second chance to do right by Maine workers and strengthen the economy for everyone.


[1] MECEP analysis of US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Outgoing Rotation Group microdata, January 2014-December 2023. Numbers were adjusted upwards to reflect total nonfarm payroll employment for 2023. Number of salaried workers in non-exempt occupations expected to earn between $837 and $1,059 per week in 2025.

[2] MECEP analysis of US Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Outgoing Rotation Group, January-December 2023 microdata and Maine Office of Fiscal and Program Review fiscal estimate for LD 1376. Includes 25,000 direct care workers, 40,000 other workers earning at or below the current minimum wage on an hourly equivalent basis, and 51,000 earning between $15 and $17.25 per hour.