Employment: Time Off to Vote
With many municipal and special elections set in November it is a good time for a reminder that employers must allow employees time off to exercise their right to vote. The purpose of Oklahoma’s time off to vote law is to give employees an opportunity to vote without loss of compensation or being penalized. The law requires employers to give employees at least 2 hours off work to vote. If the employee is far enough away from his/her voting place that more than 2 hours will be needed, you must give them “sufficient time” in which to cast a ballot.
All that is required of the employee to get the statutory time off to vote is to give the employer written or oral notice of his/her intention to be absent to vote by at least the day before the election. Upon the employee’s notice, the employer has the right to select the hours the employee is allowed to take off to vote and give the employee notice of same. In lieu of giving the employee two hours off, the statute specifically allows employers to re-arrange the employee’s schedule on election day to allow three hours off after polls open or before they close. Oklahoma polling places are generally open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
An employee cannot be disciplined in any way for the time missed to go vote. That means the employee’s statutory time off to vote must be compensated and cannot count against vacation time. Any employer who fails to comply with the law may be guilty of a misdemeanor, and can be fined $50.00 to $100.00 per occurrence. It’s also possible an employer could face civil liability if it retaliates against an employee who takes time off to vote in compliance with the statute.
Be sure you are complying with the time off to vote statute and any voting policies in your employee handbook or other personnel policies. To summarize, the only time you do not have to give an employee time off under the statute is when: (1) the employee does not give you written or oral notice of her intention to be absent to vote by at least the day before the election, (2) the employee is not registered to vote, or (3) if the employee’s work day begins 3 or more hours after the polls open or ends 3 or more hours prior to the polls closing.
By N. Lance Bryan, firstname.lastname@example.org