Employment Discrimination in Maine

Maine has strict employment discrimination laws that make it illegal for employers of any size to discriminate against their employees based on a number of “protected classes.”

Unfortunately, this legislation hasn’t stopped discrimination in the workplace in Maine entirely. If you have experienced being discriminated against where you work, you have the right to file a claim against your employer with either the state anti discrimination agency or its federal equivalent. You may be able to file a lawsuit in a state or federal court if attempts to resolve your complaint are unsuccessful.

What Kind of Discrimination Laws Are in Place in Maine?

Maine’s own state employment discrimination legislation is called the Maine Human Rights Act. The federal discrimination at work laws include the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Equal Pay Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

There are some significant differences between state and federal laws, although they tend to act in parallel. For example, the Maine Human Rights Act covers age discrimination for any age worker, while the ADEA, the federal equivalent, only covers age discrimination for workers over 40.

Who is Protected by Federal and State Laws in Maine?

The Maine Human Rights Act makes it illegal for discrimination on the grounds of

  • age,
  • color,
  • genetic pre-disposition
  • national origin (ancestry),
  • physical or mental disability,
  • race,
  • religion,
  • sex,
  • sexual orientation.

These categories are referred to as “protected classes.” Employees in these categories who have experienced discrimination at work may file their complaint with either the state or federal agency which is charged with enforcing state or federal discrimination laws, bearing in mind that there are differences between the relevant laws.

What Employers are Covered by Discrimination Laws in Maine?

There is a significant difference between the Maine Human Rights Act and the federal laws. The Maine Human Rights Act covers all employers regardless of size, whereas the federal laws cover employers with 15 or more employees only.

This means that if you work in a place of employment with between 1 and 14 employees you will need to file your claim with the state agency, not the federal agency.

Which Maine Agencies Regulate These Laws?

The Maine agency enforcing Maine’s Human Rights Act is the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC). The sole office is located in Augusta.

The federal agency which enforces federal laws and investigates any kind of discrimination at work is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).This agency does not have a physical office anywhere in Maine. The nearest office is in Boston, MA. However, the EEOC has an online service which can be accessed anywhere in the state.

How Do I File a Discrimination Claim in Maine?

You have the choice of filing a claim with either the MHRC or the EEOC if you work in a larger workplace, but the MHRC is the only agency to file a claim if you are in a workplace smaller than 15 employees.

It is advisable to supply as much relevant information as possible if you do decide to file a claim with either agency. The MHRC and EEOC have a work-sharing agreement so can cross-reference files with each other, so there is no need to file a claim with both agencies at the same time.

Once a complaint has been received, there will be an investigation into the alleged discrimination. This may mean arranging mediation and contact with the employer or witnesses.

The first priority will be to resolve the complaint, but either agency may also take legal action against your employer or give you permission to take file a lawsuit with a state or federal court.

How Long Do I Have to File an Employment Discrimination Claim in Maine?

There are specific time limits for filing an employment discrimination claim in Maine. These are called statutes of limitations. Both the MHCR and the EEOC allow 300 days from the date of the act of discrimination for a claim to be file with them.

If the EEOC cannot resolve your complaint you may be issued a “Right to Sue” letter which enables you to file a lawsuit in a federal court within 90 days. You can file lawsuit in a state court but failure to go through the MHRC first may limit any damages claimed.

How Do I Get Help Filing an Employment Discrimination Claim in Maine?

If your complaint cannot be resolved by the MHRC or the EEOC, you should talk to an employment lawyer about filing a lawsuit through either a state or federal court.

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