The Employer's Legal Resource: More Rights for Your Employees to Have Time Off to Vote
Almost every year, we write about Oklahoma's law which protects your employee's right to take off time to vote. Well, this year we have some news. Oklahoma has actually changed the law – first time in almost two decades. Employers need to be aware of the new law. It remains unchanged that, upon proof of voting, an employer cannot subject the employee to any adverse consequence – including any loss of compensation for the time missed.
To receive time off to vote, the employee must notify the employer of the intention to be absent to vote at least three days before the day in question. To emphasize, the employee is not "asking" but "notifying" the employer. Upon receiving this notice, the employer may select the days/hours when the employee can vote and notify the employee of that determination. For example, if the employee has multiple days/times when the ballot might be cast, the employer can decide that having the employee vote Tuesday when the polls open at 7:00 a.m. would cause the least disruption to the work schedule.
Every employer who employs an Oklahoma registered voter must grant that employee two (2) hours of time in which to vote, subject to these rules:
1. This rule applies on election day, and now includes days when in-person absentee voting is allowed. This is perhaps the biggest change to the law. Your employees can now require time off to vote when in-person voting is allowed – those days before the actual election day.
2. If the employee works more than two hours away from the polling place, the employer must grant sufficient time off to allow the employee to cast a ballot, even if that requires more than two hours.
(Note: If the employee's work is regularly scheduled to begin 3 or more hours after the polls open or if the employee's work regularly ends 3 or more hours before the polls close, it would seem the new law does not require an employer to give an employee any time off to vote. Additionally, it seems the new law allows an employer to move the work hours such that the employee has 3 hours before the shift or after the shift to vote in order to avoid granting time off under the law.)
The biggest change to the law is the additional rights given as to in-person absentee voting days. Our biggest reminder is that the employees have a right to vote. As an employer, you have a right to manage schedules to minimize (although perhaps not eliminate) disruption to your work. A little planning will go a long way.
By Kristen L. Brightmire, email@example.com