Employee Voting Rights: What business owners and managers should know
What should you do when an employee requests time off to vote? There is no single answer to this question, as voting rights are regulated by each state. Most states require employers to provide voting leave and many of those require that the leave be paid. Some, however, have no specific law regarding voting rights.
In certain states, the employer may ask for advance notice. For instance, in Tennessee employees must provide notice by noon the day before the election. West Virginia is the only state requiring written notice. Some states, like Alabama, allow employers to determine what hours that employees can leave the office to vote. California and New York require employers to post a notice of voting rights at least ten days before every election. In some states, employees are entitled to time off only if they don’t have enough time to get to the polls before or after work. In Texas and many other states, unless an employee has voted under early voting procedures, an employer may not deduct time from an employee’s wages if s/he goes to vote during regular work hours. Additionally, many states have provisions for employee rights to serve as election officials.
We recommend that you check your state’s law (see link below) and if you are still unsure of what to do, consult with an attorney. In general, there are several general practices that all employers should try to avoid. The activities noted below might be viewed as an attempt to influence, intimidate, threaten, suppress or otherwise infringe on an employee’s civil rights.
Business owners and managers should avoid:
- Refusing a request for time off to vote unless there is adequate time outside of the employee’s normal working hours, in accordance with applicable law;
- Requiring employees to participate in employer-sponsored political events;
- Asking your employee who they will vote for;
- Reducing pay of any exempt (salaried) employee for taking time to vote, in accordance with applicable wage deduction regulations;
- Refusing to pay a non-exempt (hourly) employee for their voting time if done within their normal working hours (in states where applicable);
- Requiring employees to vote early or to vote at all;
- Forbidding employees to talk about political issues relating to wages and working conditions; and,
- Discriminating, retaliating or harassing an employee based on their political views.
Private employers can place limits on political discussions in the workplace. You should make sure that employees are not harassed at work by other employees due to conflicting political views. However, federal law protects employees’ rights to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment (wages, benefits, working conditions, etc.), so any political discussion of labor and employment issues should not be squelched.
If you are interested in an assessment of your compliance with voting or other employment-related regulations, please contact Workplace FactFinders at 844-321-9733.
For information on your particular state’s voting law, click here. Be sure to read the statute itself, rather than just looking at the information from the summary.
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