Maine Human Rights Commission Amends Complaint Procedures
Any employer that has ever been part of a Maine Human Rights Commission investigation has learned firsthand that the process can be long, frustrating and often-times unfair. Due to chronic understaffing at the Commission, the investigation process can be agonizingly slow and drag on for up to two years.
On February 9, 2015, the MHRC announced new complaint processing rules which it hopes will speed up this process. These new rules may result in adverse consequences to employers who fail to pay heed. Under the new rules, employers will have eight weeks to respond to a MHRC complaint once served on them. Previously, employers had 30 days to respond, but were routinely granted extensions of that deadline. Now, extensions will not be granted except in emergency circumstances, and only then upon the approval of the Executive Director of the MHRC. In announcing the new procedures, the Executive Director stated that absent a true emergency, such requests will likely be denied. Failing to meet the strict response deadline could result in the employer being barred from making its case to the Commission.
In addition, requests by employers for administrative dismissal must be set forth along with the employer’s response to the complaint. Previously, an employer could request administrative dismissal and if denied, then file its factual response, known as a “position statement.” Employers must now do so simultaneously or risk waiving the chance to factually respond to the complaint.
What this means to you as an employer:
- Do not sit on a MHRC complaint once it has been served on you. The eight week clock is ticking, and any extension to respond is unlikely.
- Be sure to provide a copy of the MHRC complaint to your legal counsel and your insurer as soon as possible.
- Unless you are confident in the grounds for administrative dismissal, include those arguments along with the position statement.
Matt is co-chair of Bernstein Shur’s Labor and Employment Law Practice Group. If you have any questions concerning your rights and responsibilities before the Maine Human Rights Commission, contact Matt at 207 228-7158, or firstname.lastname@example.org or any member of Bernstein Shur’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.