An effort to end at-will employment in Maine failed in the House of Representatives on Thursday, although a narrow majority of the Democratic-led chamber approved an alternate version that would study the issue.

The proposal from Rep. Mike Sylvester, D-Portland, would have been a historic change in Maine’s employment laws by requiring a three-step discipline process before an employee is fired. Among U.S. states, only Montana requires employers to have “just cause” when letting an employee go after a six-month probationary period.

An amendment to the bill would have immediate firings to instances in which an employee violates state law, endangers safety, harms the business’ reputation or for another reason outlined in that business’ employee handbook. It would not protect employees from being let go if an employer downsizes, restructures or if they are a seasonal business.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle, whorejected it in a bipartisan 99-35 vote. Democrats advanced an alternate version in a 71-63 vote to authorize a study on the issue. It now goes to the Senate and faces further action in both chambers.

The bill faced opposition from Gov. Janet Mills and Maine’s business organizations, which saw the bill as a top issue.

Megan Diver

Megan has worked in Maine politics for more than ten years and all of her professional career, having served in many roles for elected officials (including former Secretary of State Charlie Summers), in-house with the Maine Association of REALTORS®, legislative specialist at Pierce Atwood LLP providing lobbying services and support to Pierce Atwood’s government relations clients and most recently senior government relations specialist at the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. Megan currently is the Vice President at the Maine Energy Marketers Association, utilizing her vast knowledge and legislative experience at the State House to represent MEMA on policies relating to the Association and its members.