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.