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Employee Freedom of Speech Protections Enacted

Effective October 25, 2023, employers cannot fire, discipline, or penalize an employee because they:

  • Declined to attend an employer-sponsored meeting discussing the employer’s religious or political opinions;
  • Declined to receive employer-sponsored information about the employer’s religious or political opinions; or
  • Reported a violation of these protections.

The law does not apply to a religious employer nor do the protections prohibit employers from:

  • Communicating legally required information;
  • Having religious/political meetings or communications so long as they’re completely voluntary for employees to attend or receive; or
  • Notifying employees about any information that’s necessary for the employee’s job duties.

Action Items

  • A workplace notice of these employee rights should be posted where employee notices are customarily placed.

Limitations on Captive Audience Meetings

Employers can’t take, or threaten to take, any adverse action against an employee for declining to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting that expresses the employer’s opinion on religious or political matters. The same applies to an employee who declines to receive or listen to communications that convey the employer’s views on religious or political matters. Certain religious employers are exempt. Effective October 25, 2023.

Matters are defined as religious if they relate to religious belief, affiliation, practice, or the decision to join or support a religious organization or association. Matters are considered political if they relate to any of the following:

  • Elections for political office
  • Political parties
  • Proposals to change legislation, regulations, or public policy
  • The decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal, or labor organization

Notably, this law prevents employers from coercing employees to attend “captive audience meetings” where the employer presents their views on unionization or labor organizing. It doesn’t apply to meetings or communications that are strictly voluntary, necessary for employees to perform their job duties, or communications that are required by law.

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Employers are required to post a notice to employees about these rights within 30 days of the law becoming effective. The law doesn’t say whether the state will create a sample notice, but you may want to check Maine’s Labor Posters website for one closer to November 24.

 

Action Items

  • Allow employees to opt out of any meeting or communication covered by this law
  • Post the required notice where other employee notices are displayed by November 24, 2023

Equal Pay Law’s New Antidiscrimination Protections

Effective October 25, 2023, employers may not discriminate in the workplace against employees based on their race by paying them less than other employees, of another race, who are doing comparable work with comparable skill, effort, and responsibility. Previously, the law only protected against this type of discrimination when it was based on sex. The law permits wage differentials (e.g., seniority or merit increase systems) that do not discriminate based on sex or race.

HR Services Team
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