Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Voting Day Laws 2014


Tuesday, November 4th is Election Day (lest you forget).  Relevant for employers is that many states have laws allowing employees to take time off in order to vote.  As such, employers should be aware of their obligations and employee rights in order to adequately prepare.  Should you have any questions regarding your obligations under these laws, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney in one of Wessels Sherman's five (5) offices.

Please note that in 2010, Minnesota amended its time off for voting law.  Employers should be aware of this change for 2014 elections!
Under the new Minnesota law, employees have the right to "be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee's polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of the election."  Companies cannot interfere with this right, nor deduct from an employee's pay, vacation or PTO because of the absence.  Previously this right was limited to a reasonable time off work the morning of the election, but that right has changed to the necessary time off during the entire Election Day.
For a free sample of an Employee Notice of November 4, 2014 Election Procedures, for Minnesota employers contact Christine Beggan in our Minneapolis office at (952) 746-1700, or email chbeggan@wesselssherman.com.

Wisconsin's voting law is fairly straight forward.  Employees are entitled to up to three (3) hours of unpaid time off from work to vote.  Employees are required to notify their employers prior to Election Day.  Employers in turn may designate the time of the day during which the employee may be absent to vote.
Illinois has a relatively new law which provides that an employer must permit a two-hour absence with pay if the employee's working hours begin less than two hours after the polls open and end less than two hours before the closing of the polls.  Because the polls are open in Illinois from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., in all but a few cases employees will have plenty of time to vote before or after work, so this law will not apply.  When this does apply the employee must request the time off prior to the day of election and the employer may specify the hours the employee can take off.
Similar to Illinois law, Iowa requires that employers allow employees paid time off work to vote, but only -
  1. If the employee requests the time off in writing prior to Election Day; and
  2. The employee does not otherwise have three (3) consecutive hours of non-working time available while the polls are open.
If the employee does not have three (3) consecutive non-working hours off, the employee is entitled to take as much time off as necessary so that they have three (3) consecutive non-working hours off during which they can vote.
Example:     If the voting poles are open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. and the employee's shift starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. you do not need to grant the employee time off to vote because there is a block of three (3) consecutive hours to vote from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  Likewise, if the employee's shift starts at 10:00 a.m. and ends at 6:00 p.m. you do not need to grant the employee time off to vote because there is a block of three (3) consecutive hours to vote from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.   However, if an employee's shift starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m., the employer could grant the employee 1 ½ hours of paid leave to allow the employee to come to work at 10:00 a.m., thus creating a block of three (3) consecutive hours to vote from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. or allow the employee to leave work at 5:00 p.m. creating a block of hours of three (3) consecutive hours to vote from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with the employer having to pay the employee ½ hour of time (5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.)
Employers are advised to issue appropriate communiqués to employees in advance of November 4, 2014 elections.  This will avoid misunderstandings or disputes involving unexpected absences on Election Day.

If you have questions or would like to discuss Minnesota's election law, please contact Attorney James B. Sherman in Wessels Sherman's Minnesota office at (952) 746-1700, or email jasherman@wesselssherman.com.
Note:  This alert provides only a summary of the election laws and is not meant as a substitute for legal advice on any nuances of the laws as applied to a particular issue or situation.  The lawyers of our offices in each of the above states are able to assist employers with appropriate documentation that is compliant with these laws