The Employer's Legal Resource: Get out the Vote — Your Employees' Rights to Vote

10.01.16

Election Day is almost upon us – Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

Most every state has laws protecting the rights of people to vote. In Oklahoma, employees have the right to have time off of work – if needed - so they may cast their vote. You need to understand those rights so you are prepared.

Oklahoma employers cannot penalize an employee (who is a registered voter) with loss of wages or of benefits, and cannot cause an employee to suffer any adverse employment action for exercising her right to vote.

How and when must an employee make a request?

The employee must give the employer written or verbal notice of the need to be absent to vote at least one day before the election. Once the employer receives notice, the employer must advise the employee as to when he can take off to vote and when he should be working.

How does the employer respond to the employee's request?

If the employee's regular workday begins three (3) hours after the polls open or ends three (3) hours before the polls close, that employee does not need to be provided time off. In other words, because the polls in Oklahoma are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., if the employee's workday (i) begins on or after 10:00 a.m. or (ii) ends before or at 4:00 p.m., that employee does not need to be provided time off to vote. Additionally, Oklahoma law expressly permits employers to change employee's work schedules on Election Day to allow the three hours off at the beginning or ending of the work day. In other words, if your employee normally works 8:00-5:00, you could shift her schedule for Election Day to 7:00-4:00 to allow that employee three hours at the end of her shift to vote.

However, if the employee's workday does not provide her with at least three (3) hours of non-working time while the polls are open, the employer must provide her with time off to vote.

If you cannot adjust an employee's work schedule such that you must grant time off, an employee must have at least two (2) hours when he is not working in which to vote. If the employee works so far away from his polling place that he will need more than two hours, his employer must give him "sufficient time" to vote.

Does the employer have to pay for the time off?

If you had to grant an employee time off (as opposed to adjusting his regular work day), the employee cannot be subject to any loss of compensation or benefit for voting upon proof of voting.

Have a plan ready – remember, your employees must only give one day's notice.

By Kristen L. Brightmire, kbrightmire@dsda.com

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Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca D. Bullard

Rebecca represents clients primarily in labor and employment litigation and counsels clients regarding everyday employment matters. 

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