Maine Harassment Laws: What You Need To Be Aware Of
Maine was the first State in the U.S. to implement sexual harassment training requirements in the workplace. They require workplaces with 15 or more employees to provide awareness training on harassment, how to avoid it, and its consequences in the workplace.
However, many employees don't know about Maine harassment laws and their legal penalties when committing an offense. Read on for detailed information about Maine's harassment laws and workplace implications.
If you need help to build a healthy work environment and raise harassment awareness among your employees, try out the best Workplace Sexual Harassment Training by EasyLlama. We deliver efficient training material to help you stay compliant.
Let's begin with understanding what is considered harassment under Maine law.
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Definition Of Harassment Under Maine Criminal Code: Title 17-A, §506-A.
Under Maine law, harassing conduct is classified in two different ways: harassment and abuse. Let's review the definitions for each.
The definition of harassment is three or more acts of confrontation, intimidation, physical force, or the threat of physical force. These acts must comply with the following:
- Be directed against any person, business or family;
- The intent to harass, torment, intimidate or cause fear/damage to property; and
- Cause damage to property, fear, or intimidation.
A single act or course of conduct could be considered harassment if it violates other laws protecting civil and constitutional rights, such as stalking, aggravated assault, or criminal restraint.
The definition of abuse is the occurrence of any of the following:
- Attempt to cause (or cause) bodily injury, offensive physical contact, and sexual assaults.
- To harass, torment, or threaten another person with the intent to place them (or placing them) in fear of bodily injury or death.
- They are knowingly restricting the movement of another person without their consent or any lawful authority.
- Repeatedly following someone, or being near (or at) their home, school, business or place of work, without any reasonable cause.
- They are distributing certain private images of someone without their authorization.
- Sex trafficking
These acts must be against any household, family member, and dating partner (including offenses upon minors by any previously mentioned).
Download the guide outlining all the state and local laws around sexual harassment prevention training requirements.
Ultimate Guide To State And Local Harassment Prevention Training Requirements
Protection From Harassment Laws
In the State of Maine, a victim of harassment or abuse can obtain a court order to gain protection from their harasser or abuser.
Two different protection orders may be issued, depending on the circumstances in which the harassment occurs. So let's review both cases.
Protection From Abuse Order
A special relationship between the parties involved is required to get a Protection From Abuse order. They must be family, household members, or current/former domestic partners (including sexual and dating partners).
In the case of sexual assault, stalking, sex trafficking, or distribution of private images, this order may be granted even without a prior relationship with the abuser. In addition, an elderly person, dependent or incapacitated adult, can seek protection from abuse order against their unpaid care providers.
Protection From Harassment Order
A Protection From Harassment order can be issued to protect an individual from harassment if there is no previous personal relationship with the offender (it can be your new neighbor or a doorman at your building)
Victims of workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation), and disability, can also request protection from harassment orders as long as there is no personal relationship with the abuser.
Penalties For Harassment Charges In Maine
First of all, if you are accused of harassment, contact a law enforcement agency to get legal advice, even if you think the charges have no merit. Knowing the correct legal steps to take after an accusation can make a huge difference in the outcome.
A person is guilty of harassment only if they continue the abusive behavior after a complaint was submitted. Depending on the situation, they could face different charges. Let's review each case.
Class E Crime
Of all the harassment charges, this is the least severe type of offense. A person would be charged with a Class E criminal offense if they continued to commit harassment, without any reasonable cause, after they were forbidden to do so by any sheriff, constable, or police officer. There doesn't need to be a protection order issued against them.
They could face the following penalties
- Up to 6 months in jail
- A maximum fine of $1,000
Class D Crime
A Class D offense is the highest level of misdemeanor charges (one step below a felony). A person who commits any violation of a protective order (issued and served), will be charged with this type of offense. The penalties are.
- Up to one year in jail
- A maximum fine of $2,000
Class C Crime
A person is guilty of a Class C crime (lowest level of felony offense), if they have at least two prior convictions for harassing acts at the moment of the complaint. In addition, the offenses must be against the same victim, their immediate family, or significantly similar to those from the previous convictions.
The penalties for a Class C crime are.
- Up to 5 years in jail
- A maximum fine of $5,000
Workplace Harassment Under Maine Law
In the case of any of the previous abusive behaviors happening in the workplace, these will be considered workplace harassment. Harassment is a form of workplace discrimination, and it seriously undermines the integrity and morale of employees.
Employee intimidation or offensive behavior based on race, sex (including sexual orientation), disability, age, religion, whistleblower activity, or marital status violates Maine's State policy.
Harassing acts can be categorized as sexual harassment or a hostile work environment.
The definition of sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, such as inappropriate physical and verbal conduct, as well as requests for sexual favors. The submission to this unwelcome sexual conduct may be stated or implied as a condition of an individual's employment.
If the rejection of the conduct becomes a basis for employment decisions (such as promotions, schedule changes, permissions, or any other employee benefits), it would be considered as quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Hostile Work Environment
A hostile work environment refers to any harassing action that makes the workplace environment intimidating, offensive or unfriendly. This intimidating environment is most easily achieved by sexually harassing acts (inappropriate touching, leering and sexual gestures, or sexually suggestive comments).
Often, the victim cannot recognize when they are sexually harassed, and the offenses are left unaddressed, creating an uncomfortable work situation. However, a hostile work environment does not only refer to sexual harassment. Offensive and unwelcome behavior of any nature (whether it comes from supervisors, co-workers, or even clients), falls into this category when it impacts the employee's performance and morale.
Keep in mind that the law only protects employees from harassment if the mistreatment is based on protected classes.
An essential aspect of Maine's harassment laws is that employees may be found responsible for the harassing actions of employees and supervisors. If the employer or supervisory employees knew (or should have known) about the unwanted behavior and did not resolve the problem, the company can be investigated for a harassment claim.
In 2015, an $18 million compensation was awarded in a retaliation case against a New York Global Group CEO after an employee refused his sexual advances. Trust me, you don't want your company to be involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
But facing a lawsuit is not the only risk your company is running when overlooking Maine's sexual harassment training requirements. Here are the main reasons you want to address properly (and ideally stay away from) any incidents in your company.
- **It will hurt your company's reputation: **A single harassment claim (especially sexual harassment) can be enough to change the public's perception of your company dramatically. These incidents can reflect unfair and intolerant company culture, causing potential clients to back off from working with you, as well as a loss of current clients.
- **It will affect productivity: **If your workplace is infected with harassment and discrimination, it can cause employee absenteeism, gossip, low morale, stress, and anxiety. This leads to a decrease in productivity and makes your workers more likely to quit. Increased hiring and training costs will also affect your organization financially.
- **It will frustrate your diversity hiring efforts: **If you are looking to hire a diverse workforce, consider that candidates of diverse backgrounds (for example, Latin Americans, members of the LGTB community, or people of color) may abstain from applying for your company if they find out about a harassment claim especially if they did not properly handle it.
- You can face fines: Sexual harassment compliance fines start at $25 for each day you don't have awareness posters on the walls. They can go up to a $5,000 fine for lack of employee training. This highlights the importance of training and education to prevent workplace harassment.
Educate To Prevent
What is the best tool against workplace harassment? Education. While required, sexual harassment training is not the only helpful education you can provide your employees with. Consider sensitivity training, diversity and inclusion, as well as leadership and management training, if you want to ensure discrimination and harassment-free work environment.
With EasyLlama training programs, you can make that happen. We deliver ongoing training across a variety of workplace issues, with effective and comprehensive material. In addition, our online learning platform is always available and it's easy to access on any device.
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