Senate passes Bellows bill to empower public employees when private data is stolen

Posted: June 21, 2019 | Senator Bellows

On Thursday, the Maine Senate unanimously enacted for a bill from Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, to require that municipalities and school districts notify employees as quickly as possible of actual or suspected breaches of confidentiality and thefts of an employee’s personal information due to cyber activity.

The bill, LD 696 “An Act To Protect Public Employees from Identity Theft,” also requires the public employers to provide affected employees with financial counseling and requires that while employees should be notified as quickly as possible, notice must occur within 30 days.

“Data breaches are an all too common fact of life in today’s workplace,” said Sen. Bellows. “This law will ensure that municipalities and school districts act quickly to notify and help their employees if their data is stolen.”

Sen. Bellows introduced LD 696 after learning from the Maine Education Association that a data breach at MSAD 4 in Guilford resulted in a number of employees struggling with significant financial problems when scammers filed false tax returns in their names, among other impacts. Additional breaches at the Brunswick School Department and AOS 77 in Eastport have been reported.

MSAD 4 “was aware of the breach but failed to notify its employees in a timely manner or reveal the extent of the breach,” said Andrew Mason of the MEA at a recent public hearing on the bill. “Because of the delay of the district in informing its employees about the breach, they were not able to take any proactive steps to protect themselves, instead having to react after the damage had been done.”

LD 696 has now been sent to Gov. Janet Mills, who has 10 days to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without her signature.