Maine’s “An Act to Protect Employee Freedom of Speech” (also known as a captive audience meeting law) went into effect September 19, 2023.
Under this law, Maine employers are not allowed to take adverse employment actions against employees when:
- the employees decline to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting; or
- decline to receive or listen to a communication from the employer; and
- if the purpose of meeting or communication centers around religious or political matters.
Note that the bill provides an exemption for religious organizations.
Also note that employers must post their obligations under this law in the workplace by October 19, 2023.
This means that Maine employers must not discipline or directly or indirectly impact employees’ jobs if the employees choose not to attend certain workplace meetings, for example those concerning union organizing matters, spotlighting political candidates or causes, or discussing partnerships with religiously affiliated organizations.
Employees’ attendance at meetings described by the captive audience law must be voluntary rather than mandatory.
The new law defines political matters as “matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, proposals to change legislation, proposals to change rules or regulations, proposals to change public policy and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal or labor organization.” Religious matters are defined as “matters relating to religious belief, affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association.”
Maine employers should consider reviewing their employment policies and practices for compliance with this new law and be prepared to post a disclosure about the law shortly. Reach out to KMA should you need assistance with these important tasks.