State laws on voting rights and time off to vote – plan early!

State laws on voting rights and time off to vote – plan early!

Unless you’ve been living as a hermit or perhaps even on Mars, you’re probably aware there’s an election coming up on November 3. Since Election Day falls on a Tuesday, quite a few people will be expected to work – remote or in person. State laws on voting rights usually become a hot topic during this time, so here’s a few tips courtesy of GroupOne Background Screening.

Do employees have a right to take time off to vote?
Having time off to vote is a legal issue that differs by state. It depends on where you live. Please note, voting laws apply to both national presidential elections and local elections. Some states will designate the amount of time workers should be allowed off to vote. It varies if the time off is paid or unpaid. Most, but not all, states prevent employers from firing employees because they take time off to vote. Some states require employers to give time off only if employees do not have enough time while polls are open. In some states, if employees do not actually vote even though they took time off, an employer can dock their pay.

How do employees vote during work hours on Election Day?
Once again, laws vary from state to state. Many states require employees to give advance notice of their intention to vote. It’s always a good idea to communicate with your employees on the exact time they plan to vote. Even if your state has no voting laws, employers would be well served to support employee efforts to vote as long as adequate notice has been given. If an employee’s wishes cannot be accommodated, learn about your state’s laws on absentee or early voting. Plan early!

Can employees volunteer at the polls on Election Day?
For states with laws allowing employees to vote, the time off permitted is usually limited to a few hours rather than the entire day. Employers could allow employees to use vacation or personal days for Election Day volunteer work. Communication is always key. An employer’s patience would most certainly be tested if every employee took time off to work the polls on Election Day. Hey, we’re as excited about the upcoming Election Day as the next civic-minded person. But just because it’s Election Day does not mean employees can take a holiday. As on any other official workday, employees do not have a legal right to take leave whenever they want without advance notice or permission.

Should employers post a notice about voting rights?
With exception of the Golden State of California, employers are not required to post anything about how to take advantage of their legal rights to vote. Though it never hurts to communicate state laws to employees.

What are the penalties if an employer denies an employee the right to vote?
Different question, same answer. Penalties vary from state to state. Some states impose penalties, oftentimes severe. Others do not. In the states of Colorado and New York, know your laws! Employers can potentially face the loss of corporate charters and serious fines if they violate time-off-to-vote laws. In Arizona, Kansas and Missouri, supervisors are slapped with fines as high as $2,500. Arizona also has stiff penalties for companies with fines as much as $20,000.

Truth be told, most employers want to promote civic involvement and boost employee morale by allowing workers to vote. It’s a patriotic tradition! If news breaks that your company prevented employees from voting, the severe public relations fallout could likely be far more damaging than any governmental fine.

Here’s the voting laws of a few local states:

In Texas, an employer may not refuse to allow an employee to take time off, though no time limit is specified. Exceptions during work hours are not required if an employee has two consecutive non-work hours available while the polls are open. Advance notice is not required and pay cannot be docked.

In Oklahoma, an employer may not refuse to allow an employee to take time off, and it could be for more than two hours if the employee lives a considerable distance from the polling place. Exceptions during work hours are not required if an employee has three consecutive non-work hours available while the polls are open. Notice is required one day in advance and pay cannot be docked.

In Louisiana, there are no laws that require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers of 20 or more cannot interfere with their employees’ “political activities.”

In New Mexico, an employer may not refuse to allow an employee to take time off, with a time limit of two hours specified. Exceptions during work hours are not required if an employee has two consecutive non-work hours in the morning or three hours in the evening available while the polls are open. Advance notice is not required and pay cannot be docked.

So, with that said, have a Happy Election Day!

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not be construed as legal advice, express or implied.

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