If promised, vacation must be granted. Although no Maine law requires private sector employers to provide employees with paid or unpaid vacations, most employers do offer their employees some version of vacation. However, it is important for employers to remember that if they “promise” vacation, they may be legally bound to provide it, and that a binding promise does not require embodiment in a formal employment contract. Maine courts have ruled that under some circumstances, an employer's assurance of paid vacation time, whether made in an employee handbook, given orally, or simply understood as a matter of common practice, may constitute an implied contract that is binding and enforceable.
Accrual method. Employers are free to devise their own system for vacation accrual--for example, on a monthly or pay-period basis, or upon completion of a 6-month or 12-month period. It is important to be clear and unambiguous when drafting such policies. If the policy is intended to ensure that employees work the entire accrual period to earn their vacation days, it should state clearly that employees will not be entitled to pro rata payment if they leave partway through the period. Remember that any vagueness in the policy is likely to be construed against the employer.
Vacation pay due at termination? If paid vacation is provided, it is considered wages earned; thus, an employee who leaves the payroll must be paid for any accrued, unused time. An employer with a paid vacation policy that sells a business must pay its employees for accrued, unused vacation time, or obtain a specific agreement from the buyer to honor the seller's vacation policy (ME Rev. Stat. Tit. 26 Sec. 626).