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Maine Civil Rights Laws

Being discriminated against for any reason feels terrible. While there’s little you can do when a bigot exercises his or her right to free speech in public, you do have the right to fair treatment in other contexts. From the workplace to buying a home to spending the night in a hotel, state and federal laws protect certain groups from discrimination.

Federal and state agencies enforce these civil rights and anti-discrimination laws. The groups protected can vary by state, as states can provide more protection, such as for discrimination based on sexual orientation. Maine does protect from sexual orientation discrimination while the federal don’t yet.

Maine Civil Rights and Human Rights Laws

Maine enacted three major laws to protect its residents from discrimination, the Human Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. Maine laws protect individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, education or vocational training, extension of credit, access to public accommodations or services, and the right to engage in lawful activities without being subjected to physical force, violence, property damage, trespass, or threat of force or damage on account of:

  • Race or color
  • Sex or gender
  • Age (employment and credit only, Maine prohibits mandatory retirement ages)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Religion (not protected in education)
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Family or marital status (housing or extension of credit only)
  • Asserting a workers’ compensation claim (employment only)

Maine also has additional provisions, such as the right for women to breastfeed in public or private wherever the nursing mother has a right to be and the right to file a complaint against offensive names of places (think the Washington Redskins case).

The following table outlines the basic civil rights or human rights laws in Maine

Code Sections Maine Code Revised Title 5, Part 12: Human Rights
State Civil Rights Agency The Maine agency that works on these civil rights matters is the Human Rights Commission.
Administrative Preemption Maine law requires you first go through the proper administrative complaint process before you can sue in civil court. The agency “preempts” other legal options.
Private Lawsuits Yes, you can sue. If within 180 days the Human Rights Commission fails to file a civil action against the alleged wrongdoer, the individual can request a “right to sue” letter. If granted, the Commission stops its investigation and the matter goes to civil court.
Attorney Fees Yes, in some cases, attorney fees can be granted to the plaintiff.
Statute of Limitations You must file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission within 300 days. This deadline is called a “statute of limitations” on when you can make a complaint or sue for civil rights violations and any other type of legal matter.

If you feel you were discriminated against in any of the ways described above, you should quickly file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission by calling 207-624-6290 or by completing the online complaint form. You could also consult with an experienced civil rights lawyer in Maine to learn about other legal options.

Note: State and federal laws are ever changing. Please contact a knowledgeable attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these state civil rights laws.

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