Impact of Amendment to Maine Human Rights Act Patricia A. Peard, Esq. | December 7, 2005 In the last legislative session, the Legislature enacted and Governor Baldacci signed into law LD 1196, An Act To Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation. This law added “sexual orientation” to the list of protected groups under the Maine Human Rights Act. Sexual orientation is defined in the Act as “a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression.” On November 8, 2005 the people of Maine declined to repeal this law and as a result this law will become effective as of December 28, 2005. On that date it will no longer be legal in Maine to discriminate against an individual based on their sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, or education. There are exceptions to the applicability of this law, including one for religious corporations that do not receive public funds. Although many employers (in both the public and private sectors), innkeepers, educators, financial service providers, and owners of rental units have long had this policy in the workplace on a voluntary basis, many have not. For those employers, we recommend that you consider incorporating information about this new law into your employee training. It is especially important that all of your supervisory employees be notified of this change as soon as possible in order to protect you from potential liability. Employers will also need to review and amend anti-discrimination and related clauses in personnel policies or postings. There may also be ramifications for some employers in the area of employee benefits. There are several lawsuits currently pending on this issue; we are monitoring these cases and will be getting additional information to you on this topic in the near future. We encourage you to speak with Patricia A. Peard (207 228-7306; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Louis B. Butterfield (207 228-7109; email@example.com) of Bernstein Shur’s Labor and Employment/Work Law Group for more information on the impact of LD 1196.
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