Maine Break Laws

April 10th 2024

Ensuring that employees take adequate breaks is crucial for maintaining their well-being in the workplace. Both Maine state laws and federal laws outline minimum standards for meal breaks and rest periods, to strike a balance between productivity and worker welfare.

This article aims to clarify the rights of employees and the responsibilities of employers under Maine break laws. Understanding Maine’s break laws not only helps employers comply with the law but also creates a healthy environment for both employers and employees.

This article covers:

Rest Breaks and Meal Breaks in Maine

In Maine, break laws primarily focus on meal breaks. Employers are required to provide a 30-minute meal break after employees work continuously for 6 hours or more, with this time generally being unpaid unless the employer chooses otherwise.

Employees cannot be scheduled to work for more than six consecutive hours without a 30-minute rest period, except in cases of emergency in which it may cause danger to property, life, public safety, or public health. This rest time can be utilized as unpaid mealtime only if the employee is fully relieved of duty.

However, there are exemptions for the meal break requirement:

  • Small businesses with fewer than three employees on duty at a time.
  • If employees have frequent paid breaks of shorter durations during the workday,.

This provision recognizes the unique circumstances of small businesses, where staffing levels may not always allow for the same breaks as larger establishments. 

Breastfeeding Breaks in Maine

In Maine, both federal and state laws support mothers breastfeeding at workplaces. The state legislation applies to employers of all sizes, while the federal law applies to employers with 50 employees or more. 

According to Maine Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Law (MRSA Title 26 § 604), employers must provide the following to nursing mothers in the workplace:

  • Break time to express breast milk.
  • Clean, private space, other than a bathroom, in which nursing mothers can express breast milk.

Employers are also encouraged to post the Department of Labor’s Maine Workplaces Support Nursing Moms DOL Poster to ensure each employer is aware of the law.

Break Obligations for Minor Employees in Maine

Employers in Maine must adhere to both state and federal regulations governing the employment of minors. These laws aim to safeguard the health, safety, and well-being of minor employees by providing adequate breaks, limiting work hours, and ensuring compliance with both state and federal labor laws.

In Maine, minor employees under 18 are entitled to a 30-minute meal break if they work more than six consecutive hours, provided no later than 5 hours after the start of their shift. While there are no specific rest break requirements, employers are encouraged to offer short breaks every 4 hours as a good practice. Work hour restrictions apply, with 16- and 17-year-olds prohibited from working during school hours and limited to 10 hours per day or 50 hours per week during school vacations to ensure they are not overworked and have time for education and other activities.

The Maine Department of Labor enforces state child labor laws. Any violation of child labor law is a civil violation subject to fines that range from $250 to $50,000 per incident. It is illegal for an employer to fire, threaten, retaliate against, or otherwise discriminate against an employee for reporting a suspected child labor violation to the Department of Labor. Complaints may be filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

Penalties for Violating the Break Laws in Maine

In Maine, if an employer violates these break laws, they may face penalties. Penalties can vary depending on the severity and frequency of the violation. Generally, penalties for violating break laws may include fines, back pay owed to employees for missed breaks, and potential legal action. Repeated violations or willful violations of break laws may result in more severe penalties and potential legal consequences.

Both employers and employees in Maine need to be aware of break laws and ensure compliance to avoid potential penalties and legal issues. Employees who believe their break rights have been violated may consider filing a complaint with the Maine Department of Labor or seeking legal counsel for further action.

Learn more about Maine Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.