Does Your State Have Time-Off-To-Vote Laws? Wolters Kluwer Law & Business Details Election Day Rights Voters Need To Know

Employers Risk Fines, Even Jail Time for Interfering

Oct 27, 2010, 16:57 ET from Wolters Kluwer Law & Business

RIVERWOODS, Ill., Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- As political candidates from around the United States deliver their last stump speeches, air remaining TV ads and make final appeals before Election Day, voters are making up their minds on not only who to vote for, but when. On Tuesday, November 2, millions of voters will block out time around their work day to go to the polls and many states require employers to provide employees with adequate time away to vote – or face stiff penalties.

According to CCH, a leading provider of labor and employment law information and services – part of Wolters Kluwer Law & Business – voting is more than a personal civic duty. In more than half of states, voting takes legal precedence over work, and employers must allow employees time off to cast their ballots.

Employers in many states risk fines or even jail sentences for interfering with an employee's right to vote. In other states, the law offers no special protection or incentive for someone who takes time away from their job to cast a ballot.

"In many cases, time off is only guaranteed if the employee does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote," explained CCH Employment Law Analyst David Stephanides, JD. "However, the fact that early voting or vote-by-mail is available normally does not relieve the employer of the duty to provide time off on voting day itself."

States Strike a Balance

While federal law protects a citizen's right to vote, state laws specify time-off-to-vote provisions as well as the rights employers may have to discipline employees or withhold pay for time not worked. Many of these rules attempt to balance between the interests of the employee and the employer.

In 24 states, employees must be paid for time spent voting: employers are prohibited from penalizing an employee or making deductions from wages for at least part of the time the employee is authorized to be absent from work to cast a vote. Five states – Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming – spell out in their statute books that workers will be paid for their time off only if they actually vote, although in Maryland it's sufficient for employees to establish that they attempted to vote.

Eighteen states require employees to give advance notice of their intention to take time off to vote. Iowa and West Virginia add the requirement that the notification be in writing. Employers are allowed to specify the hours to be taken for voting in 22 states.

Range of Penalties

"Employers who violate time-off-to-vote laws face penalties that range from trivial to a corporate death sentence," said Stephanides.

The highest fines for failure to allow time off to vote are authorized in Kansas and Missouri, where an individual employer may be fined $2,500, while North Dakota provides for corporations to be assessed up to $15,000. Eighteen states add possible jail time, in some cases up to a year, to monetary penalties. In New York and Colorado, businesses can forfeit their corporate charters if found in violation. Unlawful coercion of an employee's vote can bring especially stiff penalties – up to $10,000 in fines and up to five years in jail in Nebraska.

On the other end of the scale is Arkansas, where failure to give an employee an opportunity to vote – without pay – is punishable by a fine as low as $25. In a number of states, no penalty is specified.

Laws requiring payment for time off to vote were approved in 1952 by the U.S. Supreme Court in a pair of decisions involving Missouri and California laws: Day-Brite Lighting, Inc. v. Missouri and Tide Water Associated Oil Co. v. Robinson. They were upheld as a proper exercise of the police power of the state.

In addition to the U.S. states, Puerto Rico provides that any day a general election, a referendum of general interest or a plebiscite is held is a legal holiday, and employees must be allowed to vote. General elections also are considered legal holidays within the Virgin Islands and employees who give prior notice are entitled to two hours off from work to vote, without loss of pay.

Overall, 31 states and Puerto Rico have time-off-to-vote laws on the books while 19 states and the District of Columbia do not. States without time-off-to-vote laws include: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.

A table summarizing state laws follows. For expanded coverage of voting/employment laws, including citations to applicable codes and statutes, visit hr.cch.com or click here.

About Wolters Kluwer Law & Business

Wolters Kluwer Law & Business is a leading provider of research products and software solutions in key specialty areas for legal and business professionals, as well as casebooks and study aids for law students. Its major product lines include Aspen Publishers, CCH, Kluwer Law International and Loislaw. Its markets include health care organizations, law firms, law schools, corporate counsel and professionals requiring legal and compliance information. Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, a unit of Wolters Kluwer, is based in New York City and Riverwoods, Ill. Wolters Kluwer is a market-leading global information services company.


Time Off to Vote in Elections Under State Laws

State

Employees
Affected

Time
Allowed

Must Employee
Be Paid

Must
Employee
Make
Application

May
Employer
Specify
Hours

Penalty
for
Violation

Alabama

Any voter

1 hour, unless 2 hours available before or 1 hour after work.

*

Employee must provide reasonable notice.

Yes

*

Alaska

Any voter

Enough time to vote, unless 2 hours available before or after work.

Yes

*

*

*

Arizona

Any voter

Up to 3 hours, unless polls open 3 hours before or after work.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fine up to $750, jail up to 4 months; For enterprises, fine up to $10,000.

Arkansas

Any voter

Work hours must be scheduled to allow employees opportunity to vote.

*

*

*

Fine of $25 to $250.

California

Any voter

Enough time at start or end of work to vote in statewide election, when added to free time during voting hours.

Limited to 2 hours.

Yes, 2 work days before election.

At beginning or end of shift as mutually agreed to.

For unlawful coercion, fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 1 year. Corporations, fine of up to $5,000.

Colorado

Any voter

2 hours, unless polls open 3 nonworking hours State personnel system employees: 2 hours administrative leave.

Yes, but limited to 2 hours for hourly workers.

Yes, prior to voting day.

Yes, at beginning or end of shift on employee request.

Fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 1 year; corporations also face forfeit of charter and right to do business in state.

Georgia

Any voter

Up to 2 hours where necessary, unless 2 hours available before or after work.

*

Yes

Yes

Fine of $100 to $1,000, and/or jail up to 6 months and/or confinement in a county correctional facility for up to 12 months.

Hawaii

Any voter

2 hours, excluding lunch or rest periods, unless polls open 2 nonworking hours.

Yes, if vote is cast. Voter's receipt constitutes proof.

*

*

Fine of $50 to $300.

Illinois

Any voter

2 hours between opening and closing of polls.

Yes

Yes, before election day.

Yes

*

Iowa

Any voter

Enough time to give 3 voting hours when polls are open, unless employee has 3 consecutive hours nonwork time when polls open.

Yes

Yes, in writing before voting day.

Yes

Fine of $65 to $625 and/or jail up to 30 days.

Kansas

Any voter

Up to 2 hours, between open and close of polls.(1)

Yes

*

Yes

Fine up to $2,500 and/or jail up to 1 year.

Kentucky

Any voter

Reasonable time, but not less than 4 hours between opening and closing of polls.(3)

No

Yes, prior to election day.

Yes(2)

*

Maryland

Any voter.

Up to 2 hours, to cast a ballot, unless employee has 2 continuous hours off-duty between open and close of polls.

Yes, employees are to provide proof (State Board prescribed form) that employee voted or attempted to vote.

*

*

Fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 1 year for unlawful coercion.

Massachusetts

Any voter employed in manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile businesses.

Time off during first 2 hours polls are open.

*

Yes

*

Fine of up to $500

Minnesota

Any voter

Time necessary on election day to appear at polling place, cast ballot, and return to work.

Yes

*

*

Fine up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 90 days.

Missouri

Any voter

3 hours, unless polls open 3 successive nonworking hours.

Yes, if vote is cast.

Yes, prior to election day.

Yes

Fine of up to $2,500 and/or 1 year in jail.

Nebraska

Any voter

Up to 2 hours, unless polls open 2 hours before or after work.

Yes, if application made prior to election day.

Yes, prior to voting day.

Yes

Fine of up to $10,000 and/or jail up to 5 years for unlawful coercion.

Nevada

Any voter

"Sufficient time" unless "sufficient time" exists during nonworking hours. 1 to 3 hours depending on polls' distances.

Yes

Yes, prior to election day.

Yes

Fine up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 6 months.

New Mexico

Any voter

2 hours, unless work begins 2 hours after polls open or ends 3 hours before polls close.

(4)

*

Yes

Fine of $50 to $100.

New York

Any voter

"Sufficient time" unless "sufficient time" exists during nonworking hours; 4 consecutive nonworking hours while polls open is "sufficient."

Yes, limited to 2 hours

Yes, 2-10 work days prior to election day.

Yes, at beginning or end of shift, unless mutually agreed on otherwise.

Fine of $100 to $500 and/or jail up to 1 year (first offense). Corporations also face forfeiture of charter.

North Dakota

Any voter

Employers are encouraged to provide time off to vote when employee's regular work schedule conflicts with times polls are open.

*

*

*

For unlawful coercion, fine up to $2,000 and/or jail up to 1 year. Corporations can be fined up to $15,000.

Ohio

Any voter

Reasonable time (amount not specified).

(4)

*

*

Discharge or threat of discharge prohibited; fine of $50 to $500.

Oklahoma

Any voter

2 hours, more if necessary, except where employee has 3 hours before or after work.

Yes, if vote is cast.

Yes, prior to election day.

Yes

Fine of $50 to $100.

Puerto Rico

Any voter

Election day is a legal holiday. If necessary, employees must be allowed to vote between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

*

*

Shifts must be scheduled to allow voting during polling hours from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

*

South Dakota

Any voter

2 hours, unless polls open 2 nonworking hours.

Yes

*

Yes

Fine of $500 and/or jail up to 30 days.

Tennessee

Any voter

Up to 3 hours, unless polls open 3 hours before or after work.

Yes

Yes, prior to noon day before election.

Yes

Fine up to $50 and/or jail up to 30 days.

Texas

Any voter

Amount not specified; none if polls open for 2 non-working hours.

Yes

*

No provision.(5)

Fine up to $500.

Utah

Any voter

2 hours between opening and closing of polls, unless polls open 3 or more nonworking hours.

Yes

Yes, prior to voting day.

Yes, although employee may request beginning or end of shift.

Fine up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 6 months; for corporations, fine up to $5,000.

Washington

Any voter

Up to 2 hours.(6)

Yes

*

Yes(7)

*

West Virginia

Any voter

Up to 3 hours, if necessary, between opening and closing of polls.

Yes, unless has 3 hours nonworking time available to vote or employee fails to vote.

In writing 3 days before election.

Yes(8)

For corporations, fine up to $1,000; other employers/individuals, fine up to $500 and/or jail up to 6 months.

Wisconsin

Any voter

Up to 3 hours while polls open.

No

Yes, prior to election day.

Yes

Fine of $1,000 and/or jail up to 6 months.

Wyoming

Any voter

1 hour, unless polls open 3 or more consecutive non-working hours.

Yes, if vote is cast.

*

Yes, exclusive of meal times.

Election offenses, fine up to $1,000 and/or county jail up to 6 months.

SOURCE: CCH State & Federal Employment Law Compare, October 2010

* No express provision.

1 If polls open before or after work, then enough time, when added to free time, to vote, up to 2 hours.

2 May not include regular lunch period.

3 Also up to 4 hours to request application or execute absentee ballot, on day appearing before clerk, during business hours.

4 No provision but Attorneys General have construed law to require pay; in New Mexico, limited to 2 hours for hourly paid workers, except where workday ends more than 3 hours before polls close and no loss of pay; in Ohio, limited to salaried employees.

5 No provision but Attorney General has construed law as giving employer right to designate hours, provided sufficient time is allowed.

6 Does not apply if, after knowledge of work schedule on such election date, employee has sufficient time available for an absentee ballot to be secured.

7 Employer is to arrange working hours on election day to give a reasonable time to vote, up to 2 hours (not including meal or rest periods), when polls are open.

8 Employer may schedule time off to vote in essential government, health, hospital, transportation, communication services and in production, manufacturing and processing works requiring continuity of operations, but ample and convenient time and opportunity to vote.




SOURCE Wolters Kluwer Law & Business



RELATED LINKS

http://www.wolterskluwer.com
http://www.wolterskluwer.com