Voting Leave Laws
By Kevin M. Mosher • Oct 22, 2020
With election day less than two weeks way, it’s important for employers across the country to reacquaint themselves with their states’ voting leave laws. Thirty states have voting leave laws on the books, and twenty-three of those states mandate paid time off for voting.
Does Minnesota have one of those laws?
Yes! Under Minnesota law, employees have a right to be absent from work on election day for the time necessary to appear at their polling place and cast their ballots. Employers are specifically prohibited from directly or indirectly refusing, abridging, or interfering with this right.
Is this leave paid?
Again, yes! You cannot deduct from an employee’s salary, wages, or PTO because they took time off to vote.
What happens if we violate this policy?
Unlike other leave laws, a violation of this law is a criminal act that can ben prosecuted by the county attorney. Anyone who violates this law is guilty of a misdemeanor.
How do we avoid unplanned absences on election day?
Most employers probably want to avoid criminal convictions, but also want to ensure their workplace is staffed on election day. To balance these competing interests, it’s best to make a plan. Communicate with employees beforehand about election day, and request that employees notify you by a certain date if and when they plan to be absent from work to vote. Specifically check in with employees who are scheduled to work that day. Be clear that you respect their right to vote, but emphasize the importance of making a plan that accounts for everyone’s schedules. However, you cannot restrict your employees from voting on election day even if they fail to comply with your request (in Minnesota).
Does this apply to early voting?
No. The Minnesota law only protects the employee’s right to be absent from work to vote on the day of the election.
While we’re on the topic, does this law cover all elections?
Pretty much. The law applies to all “regularly scheduled” elections, as well as elections for vacancies in a federal or state congressional office or a vacancy in nomination for a constitutional office. It also covers presidential primaries.
What other states have voting day laws?
Unfortunately, employers with employees in multiple states have to worry about multiple states’ voting leave laws. As of now, employees in the following states are entitled to paid leave (to some extent) to vote on election day: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Employees are entitled to unpaid leave to vote in these states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Dakota (not required, but employers are encouraged establish a policy of granting employees time off work to vote), and Wisconsin.
Here’s a breakdown of some other states’ election leave laws: Election Leave Laws by State
* Employers must provide a notice of employees’ right to time off to vote at least ten days in advance of the election.
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