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Getting Ready for the Presidential Election – Voting Leave Law

With the Presidential Election just days away, employers need to be ready to accommodate workers who may want or need to leave during the workday to cast their votes. The purpose of this blog post is to help employers prepare for the anticipated surge of political activity by providing a summary of the voting leave laws for the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Please remember that every situation is unique and that there are many details which are not discussed in this brief summary. Therefore, no decisions related to voting leave practices or policies should be based solely upon this blog post. If you would like to discuss this issue further then please contact an attorney in Spencer Fane’s Labor and Employment Group.

ARKANSAS – A.C.A § 7-1-102

Under Arkansas law, employers are required to schedule the work hours of employees such that each employee will have an opportunity to vote on election day. The Arkansas statute does not specify how much time must be allotted and it does not specify whether the time allotted must be treated as paid leave.

COLORADO – C.R.S. § 1-7-102

Under Colorado law, employees have the right to leave work for up to 2 consecutive hours during the time that the polls are open in order to vote, unless the employee has 3 or more hours off from work during the time the polls are open. In Colorado, it is unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee for taking protected voting leave. In Colorado, protected voting leave is paid leave. As a result, an employer may not penalize employees or make deductions from their usual salary or wages when they take protected voting leave.

In Colorado, an employer may specify a particular time during the workday that employees are allowed to take their voting leave. But, if an employee so requests, the employer must allow the employee to utilize the 2 consecutive hours at the beginning or end of their regular workday. The employee must request the voting leave prior to the day of the election.

ILLINOIS – 10 I.L.C.S. 5/17-15

Under Illinois law, employees have the right to leave work for up to 2 consecutive hours during the time that the polls are open in order to vote. In Illinois, protected voting leave is paid leave. Therefore, an employer may not penalize employees or make deductions from their usual compensation when they take protected voting leave. However, an employee’s entitlement to voting leave in the state of Illinois is subject to several caveats:

First, the employee must submit an application for leave prior to the day of the election.

Second, the employer may specify a particular time during the workday that employees must take protected voting leave, except that the employer must permit a 2 hour absence during working hours if the employee’s working hours begin less than 2 hours after the opening of the polls and end less than 2 hours before the closing of the polls.

IOWA – I.C.A § 49.109

Under Iowa law, employees have the right to leave work for up to 3 consecutive hours during the time that the polls are open in order to vote. In Iowa, protected voting leave is paid leave. An employer cannot penalize or make deductions from employees’ regular salary or wages when they take protected voting leave. Iowa employees’ entitlement to protected voting leave is subject to several caveats:

First, employees are required to submit a written application for voting leave prior to the date of the election and the application must indicate the period of time to be taken.

Second, employees are not entitled to protected voting leave if there are 3 consecutive hours during which the polls are open that are outside of their normal working hours.

KANSAS – K.S.A. § 25-418

Under Kansas law, employees have the right to leave work for up to 2 consecutive hours during the time that the polls are open in order to vote. In Kansas, protected voting leave is paid leave. Kansas employers may not penalize employees or make deductions from their usual salary or wages when they take protected voting leave. An employee’s entitlement to voting leave in the state of Kansas is subject to several caveats:

First, the employer may specify a particular time during the workday that employees are allowed to utilize their voting leave. Kansas employers cannot require employees to schedule voting leave during the employee’s regular lunch period.

Second, the total amount of protected voting leave time that employees are entitled to is reduced by the amount of time the polls are open before or after the employee’s regularly scheduled workday. For example, if the polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm and the employee’s regular workday is from 8 am to 6 pm then the employee is only entitled to 1 hour of statutorily protected voting leave. Or, assuming the same polling hours, if an employee’s regular workday is from 3 pm to 11 pm, then the employee is not entitled to any protected voting leave because there are more than 2 consecutive hours during the time that the polls are open but before the regular workday commences.

MISSOURI – RSMO § 115.639

Under Missouri law, employees have the right to leave work for up to 3 consecutive hours during the times that the polls are open in order to vote. In Missouri, it is unlawful for an employer to discipline, discharge or threaten to discharge an employee for taking protected voting leave. In Missouri, protected voting leave is paid leave. Therefore, an employer may not penalize employees or make deductions from their usual salary or wages when they take protected voting leave. A Missouri employee’s entitlement to voting leave in the state of Missouri is subject to several caveats:

First, the employee must request the voting leave prior to the date of the election.

Second, the employer may specify a particular 3 hour period of time during which the polls are open that employees can utilize their voting leave.

Third, employees are not entitled to protected voting leave in Missouri if there are 3 consecutive hours during which the polls are open and which are outside of the employees’ regular workday. For example, if the polls are open from 6 am to 7 pm and the employees’ regular workday is from 3 pm to 11 pm then the employees would not be entitled to protected voting leave because there are 3 consecutive hours during which the polls are open but that the employees are not in the service of their employer.

OKLAHOMA – 26 OKL. ST. ANN. § 7-101

Under Oklahoma law, employees have the right to leave work for up to 2 consecutive hours during the time that the polls are open in order to vote. If the voting place is at such a distance from the workplace that more than 2 hours are needed, the employer must provide sufficient time for the employee to vote. In Oklahoma, protected voting leave is paid leave but only if the employee can provide proof that they voted. Therefore, in Oklahoma, an employer may not penalize employees or make deductions from their compensation when they take protected leave and can provide proof that they voted. An employee’s entitlement to protected voting leave in the state of Oklahoma is subject to several caveats:

First, employees must notify the employer, either orally or in writing, of their intention to take protected voting leave on the day preceding the election.

Second, employers must select the hours during which employees are allowed to utilize their voting leave and notify each employee of those hours. The employer may also change the employees’ hours of work on election day such that work does not begin until the polls have been open for 3 consecutive hours or such that work ends 3 hours before the polls close.

Third, employees are not entitled to protected voting leave if their regular workday begins 3 hours or more after the opening of the polls or ends 3 hours or more prior to the closing of the polls.

TEXAS – TEX. ELEC. CODE § 276.004

Under Texas law, employees have the right to leave work for up to 2 consecutive hours or, if necessary, an otherwise reasonable period of time to vote in an election. In Texas, it is unlawful to subject or threaten to subject employees to a penalty for attending the polls on election to vote. “Penalty” includes a loss or reduction of wages or another benefit of employment. Therefore, protected voting leave is paid leave in the state of Texas. However, employees are not entitled to protected voting leave if there are 2 consecutive hours or more outside of their normal workday during which the polls are open.

This blog post was authored by attorneys Frank Neuner, Sue Willman, Ron Fano, Paul Satterwhite, George FreedmanDave Wing and Brian Peterson. For more information, visit spencerfane.com.