In Maine, employers are given a lot of freedom when writing employee contracts. For example, under Maine law employers can change an employee’s pay rate at any time if they give the employee 24-hour notice. This means that if you have questions about your pay, you should start by looking at your employment contract and your employer’s work policies. But there are also some basic legal provisions that ensure employees are paid regularly for their work.

When must Paychecks Be Sent Out?

In Maine, employers are required to pay all wages due to employees at least every 16 days. This requirement applies whether you are paid by the hour or work on a set salary. If you are absent from work on a payday, you can demand payment at any later time.

What Happens if You are Fired?

Regardless of whether an employee is fired or quits, an employer is required to pay for any wages earned up until the last day of employment.  If your employer provides paid vacation days, you have a right to be compensated for any unused vacation days. To obtain any wages owed after your employment is ended, you must first provide a written demand to the employer’s payroll office. The demand should be dated, signed, and clearly describe what the employer still owes you and why.

Its a good idea to keep a copy of the demand in case there is a later dispute.  After making such a request, your employer must pay any wages owed to you by the next scheduled payday or within 14 days, whichever occurs first.  

Can Your Paycheck be Garnished?

Most creditors can obtain the right to garnish wages but only after taking the issue to a local court and having a judge acknowledge your failure to pay what is owed.  However, certain debts can cause your paycheck to be garnished without a court proceeding, such as:

  • unpaid income taxes;
  • court ordered child support;
  • back-due child support and 
  • defaulted student loans. 

Generally, the amount that can be garnished from a weekly paycheck is capped at the lesser of 25% of a take-home paycheck or 40 times the state minimum wage (which would be $360 in 2017; $400 in 2018; $440 in 2019; and $480 in 2020). 

Can You Recover a Withheld Paycheck?

Employers cannot withhold or garnish any part of an employee’s wages unless:

  • given the power under federal or state law; or
  • the employee has given written permission for their employer to withhold funds for a lawful purpose (ex: Social Security and Medicare deductions). 

However, if an employer wrongly refuses to issue a pay check or fails to pay the full amount of the wages due, then the employee can file a claim in small claims court.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

If you think your rights as an employee have been violated and are looking for an attorney to help you with a paycheck related issue, then contact a local Maine employment lawyer today to get the help you need.