A bill that would end “at-will” employment in Maine has been supported by the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee, but employers have expressed extreme concerns.
The committee voted 8-5 Friday, May7th to recommend passage of L.D. 553 to the full Legislature, which would end at-will employment and standardize progressive discipline. The bill is sponsored by the committee’s House chair, Rep. Mike Sylvester, a Portland Democrat.
At-will employment allows an employer to terminate an employee at any time, without cause, explanation or prior warning, provided the action does not violate state and federal anti-discrimination laws, Maine has no provisions against at-will employment.
L.D. 553 bill would prohibit employers from terminating an employee without cause. Under the bill, an employee could not be fired unless the employer applied a three-step progressive discipline process and notified the employee of their cause for dismissal.
At-will employment has been the norm in Maine and across the nation for decades. Employers concerns are the belief that the bill would create a private right of action or other basis for suing an employer. There would be no limit on the damages employees could seek if they can prove an employer violated the progressive discipline policy.
The bill faces possible language revisions and additional review by the House and Senate in the near future.