Paper Trails

What is a seasonal employer?

Maine is recognized as one of the most healthful, beautiful and interesting states in the nation.  With over 17 million acres of forestland and 3,500 miles of beautiful coastline, it is an attraction for many tourists at different times of the year.  Due to different terrains and climate changes, and tourists visiting at certain times of year, many Maine businesses only operate during specific seasons.  Let’s take a look at what it means to be a seasonal employer in Maine.

What is a seasonal employer?

According to the Maine Department of Labor, an employer in Maine who operates in a “seasonal” industry is considered a seasonal employer.  A seasonal industry means an industry in which it is customary to operate only during a regularly recurring period or periods of less than 26 weeks in a calendar year.  One example of a seasonal employer is a business that harvests apples.  According to Maine, that industry is considered operational August 1st to October 31st.  Another example of a seasonal industry would be campgrounds.  The state has determined that the season for these businesses is May 1st to October 23rd.  All of Maine’s seasonal industries can be found here.

What labor laws do seasonal employers have to follow?

Seasonal employers are subject to many of the same labor laws that year-round businesses must follow, but there are some excepts.  Let’s take a look.

Minimum wage and overtime

While federal laws allows for exceptions to seasonal employers, those businesses in Maine must adhere to minimum wage and overtime requirements.  For 2023, seasonal employers must pay employees at least $13.80 per hour to their non-exempt employees. Tipped employees must earn at least $6.90 per hour.  Exempt employees must earn a minimum of $796.17 per week.  Additionally, businesses must pay overtime rates, or blended overtime rates in certain cases, to those employees who work over 40 hours in any given 7 day period.


Seasonal business in Maine are subject to unemployment.  Seasonal businesses are required to file quarterly wage reports, which includes State Unemployment Tax, every quarter during the calendar year.  For the quarters the seasonal business is not in operation, the employer should report zero wages.

Employees can collect seasonal unemployment during a defined seasonal period in which the individual has previously worked. The base period is either:

  1. Regular Base Period – The first 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters before the Sunday of the week in which you file a new claim; or
  2. Alternate Base Period – If you do not have enough wages in the “regular base period” to qualify for unemployment benefits, you may use the “alternate base period” which is the last 4 calendar quarters before the Sunday of the week in which you file a new claim.

Earned paid leave

Maine’s earned paid leave law applies to businesses with 10 or more employees.  Fortunately, seasonal businesses who are specifically designated by the DOL are exempt.  Being considered a seasonal business is typically an uncommon designation.  Thus, be sure you are considered seasonal before you think you are exempt from offering earned paid leave.

Maine’s retirement mandate

The upcoming Maine Retirement Savings Program will apply to private businesses with more than 5 employees.  Businesses must be in compliance by the end of 2024.  These employers must offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan or enroll their employees in a state-run ROTH IRA.  From what we know at this time, seasonal employers will have to comply with this requirement.  The Maine Retirement Investment Trust is still working through the rules of this mandate, so check back for updates.

What to do if you are not sure if your business is seasonal

If you are wondering if your business qualifies as seasonal, or to learn more about the requirements of seasonal businesses, please contact us here!