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Laws Provide Time Off to Vote in Many States, CCH Says 

Employers Risk Fines, Jail and More for Interfering

(RIVERWOODS, ILL., October 10, 2008) – With a spirited presidential campaign and registration drives sparking voter interest, the question of just how the right to vote squares with the right of an employer to expect attendance on the job is likely to be raised in many workplaces. According to CCH, a leading provider of labor and employment law information and services and part of Wolters Kluwer Law & Business (hr.cch.com), 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 exercise the franchise. In other states, however, the law offers no special protection or incentive for someone who takes time out of the workday to vote.

Typically, time-off-to-vote laws require that employees who are registered voters be given time off from work – usually up to two or three hours – in which to visit the polls.

“In many cases, however, time off is only guaranteed if the employee does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to cast a ballot,” 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

Laws governing time off to vote can be found in 31 states. While federal law protects a citizen’s right to vote, it is individual state law that arbitrates between that right and the rights of employers to discipline workers or withhold pay for time not worked. Many of these rules are trying to strike a 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. 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 Arizona provides for corporations to be assessed up to $10,000. 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.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia do not have time-off-to-vote laws. Those states are: 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 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 leading global information services and publishing company. The company provides products and services globally for professionals in the health, tax, accounting, corporate, financial services, legal and regulatory sectors. Wolters Kluwer has annual revenues (2007) of €3.4 billion ($4.8 billion), maintains operations in over 33 countries across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific and employs approximately 19,500 people worldwide. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.wolterskluwer.com.

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nb-08-149

TIME OFF TO VOTE IN ELECTIONS UNDER STATE LAWS

SOURCE: CCH LABOR LAW REPORTS, 2008

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 of $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

For unlawful coercion, fine of up to $1,000 or jail up to 1 year; corporations, fine of up to $5,000

Colorado

Any voter

2 hours unless polls open 3 non-working 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 community correctional facility for up to 12 months

Hawaii

Any voter

2 hours, excluding lunch or rest periods, unless polls open 2 non-working 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 voting day

Yes

*

Iowa

Any voter

Enough time to give 3 voting hours when polls are open, unless employee has 3 consecutive hours non-work time when polls are open

Yes

Yes, in writing before election 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 polls1

Yes

*

Yes2

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

Kentucky

Any voter

Reasonable time not less than 4 hours between opening and closing of polls3

No

Yes, prior to voting day.

Yes

*

Maryland

Any voter

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

Yes. Employees are to provide proof (on a State Board prescribed form) voting or attempted to vote

 

*

*

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

Massachusetts

Any voter employed in mechanical, manufacturing or mercantile businesses

Time off during first 2 hours polls are open

*

Yes

*

Fine up to $500

Minnesota

Any voter

Mornings of election day

Yes

*

*

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

Missouri

Any voter

3 hours unless polls open 3 successive non-working hours

Yes, if vote is cast

Yes, prior to election day

Yes

Fine 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 is made prior to election day

Yes, prior to election day

Yes

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

Nevada

Any voter

"Sufficient time" unless "sufficient time" exists during non-working 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 non-working hours; 4 consecutive non-working 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 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

South Dakota

Any voter

2 hours, unless polls open 2 non-working hours

Yes

*

Yes

Fine up to $5,000 and/or jail up to 1 year

Tennessee

Any voter

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

Yes

Yes, prior to noon day before election day

Yes

Fine up to $50 and/or jail up to 1 year

Texas

Any voter

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

Yes

*

No provision5

Fine up to $500

Utah

Any voter

2 hours between opening and closing of polls, unless polls open 3 or more non-working 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 hours6

Yes

*

Yes7

*

West Virginia

Any voter

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

Yes, unless has 3 hours non- working time to vote and chooses not to do so

In writing 3 days before election

Yes8

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 up to $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

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

* 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 and communication services and in production, manufacturing and processing works requiring continuity of operations, but ample and convenient time and opportunity to vote.

 

       


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