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Contact Information

Leslie Bonacum
847-267-7153
mediahelp@cch.com
Neil Allen
847-267-2179
neil.allen@wolterskluwer.com

Time-off-to-vote Laws: CCH Offers State-by-state Summary Of Employees Rights

(RIVERWOODS, ILL., October 9, 2002) – November 5 is Election Day across the United States, and in many states that means employers must allow employees time off to exercise their right to vote. In fact, voting takes legal precedence over work in more than half of the United States, according to CCH INCORPORATED (CCH), a leading provider of employment law information, services and software.

Employers in many states risk fines or even jail sentences for interfering with employees’ right to exercise their franchise. In other states, however, the law offers no special protection or incentive for someone who takes time out of the workday to cast a ballot.

Typically, time-off-to-vote laws require that employees who are registered voters be given time off from work – usually up to two or three hours – in which to visit the polls.

"In many cases, though, time off is only guaranteed if the employee does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to cast a ballot," explains CCH labor law analyst Ronald Miller, JD.

States Strike a Balance

While federal law protects citizens’ right to vote, it is individual state law that arbitrates between that right and the rights of employers to discipline workers or withhold pay for time not worked. Laws governing time off to vote can be found in 30 states, with many of these rules trying to strike a balance between the interests of employee and employer.

In 20 states, employees must be paid for time spent voting: employers are prohibited from penalizing an employee or making deductions from wages for at least part of the time the employee is authorized to be absent from work to cast a vote. Five states – Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming – spell out in their statute books that workers will be paid for their time off only if they actually vote.

Seventeen states require employees to give advance notice of their intention to take time off. Iowa and West Virginia add the requirement that the notification be in writing. Employers are allowed to specify the hours to be taken for voting in 20 states.

Range of Penalties

"The penalties for firms that violate time-off-to-vote laws range from trivial to a corporate death sentence," said Miller. The highest fines are authorized in Arizona, Kansas and Missouri, where an individual employer may be fined $2,500. Arizona further provides for corporations to be assessed up to $20,000. Twelve states add possible jail time, in some cases up to a year, to monetary penalties. In New York and Colorado, businesses can forfeit their corporate charters if found in violation.

On the other end of the scale, is Arkansas, where failure to give an employee an opportunity to vote – without pay – is punishable by a fine as low as $25.

Laws requiring payment for time off to vote were approved in 1952 by the U.S. Supreme Court in a pair of decisions involving Missouri and California laws: Day-Brite Lighting, Inc. v. Missouri and Tide Water Associated Oil Co. v. Robinson. They were upheld as a proper exercise of the police power of the state.

Included is a chart listing those states with time-off-to-vote laws, along with information on which employees are covered, the amount of time that may be taken, special conditions under which time off may be taken and penalties for employer violations of the laws.

In addition to the U.S. states listed here, Puerto Rico provides that any day a general election, a referendum of general interest or a plebiscite is held is a legal holiday, and employees must be allowed to vote. General elections also are considered legal holidays within the Virgin Islands, and employees who give prior notice are entitled to two hours off from work to vote, without loss of pay.

States without time-off-to-vote laws are: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. While Mississippi law does not specifically require time off to vote, employers can not increase or decrease an employee’s wages or salary based on voting or nonvoting for any particular candidate(s).

About CCH INCORPORATED

CCH INCORPORATED, Riverwoods, Ill., is a leading provider of human resources and employment law information, software and e-learning. For more than 60 years, the company’s Human Resources group has set the standard as an authoritative source of employment law, including information on benefits, compensation, worker safety and human resources management. CCH is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer U.S. The CCH web site can be accessed at www.cch.com. The CCH Human Resources web site can be accessed at hr.cch.com.

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nb-02-114

TIME OFF TO VOTE IN ELECTIONS
UNDER STATE LAWS

SOURCE: CCH INCORPORATED LABOR LAW REPORTS, 2002


 

 

State
 

 

Employees Affected
 

 

Time

Allowed
 

 

Must Employee be Paid?
 

 

Must Employee Make Application?
 

 

May Employer Specify Hours?
 

 

Penalty for Violation
Alaska Any voter Enough time to vote, unless 2 hours available before or after work Yes * * *
Arizona Any voter Up to 3 hours unless polls open 3 hours before or after work Yes Yes Yes Fine of $2,500, jail up to 6 months; for enterprises, fine up to $20,000
Arkansas Any voter Work hours must be scheduled to allow employees opportunity to vote * * * Fine of $25 to $250
California Any voter Enough time at start or end of work to vote in statewide election, when added to free time during voting hours Limited to 2 hours Yes, 2 work days before election At beginning or end of shift *
Colorado Any voter 2 hours unless polls open 3 non-working hours Yes, but limited to 2 hours for hourly workers Yes Yes, at beginning or end of shift Fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 1 year; corporations also face forfeit of charter and right to do business in state
Georgia Any voter Up to 2 hours where necessary, unless 2 hours available before or after work * Yes Yes *
Hawaii Any voter 2 hours, excluding lunch or rest periods, unless polls open 2 non-working hours Yes, if vote is cast * * Fine of $50 to $300
Illinois Any voter 2 hours between opening and closing of polls No Yes Yes *
Iowa Any voter Enough time to give 3 voting hours when polls are open, unless employee has 3 consecutive hours non-work time when polls are open Yes In writing Yes Fine of $50 to $500 and/or jail up to 30 days
Kansas Any voter Up to 2 hours, between open and close of polls1 Yes * Yes2 Fine up to $2,500 and/or jail up to 1 year
Kentucky Any voter Reasonable time, but not less than 4 hours between opening and closing of polls3 No Yes Yes *
Maryland Any voter Up to 2 hours unless employee has 2 continuous hours off duty between open and close of polls Yes, with proof of vote cast * * *
Massachusetts Any voter employed in mechanical, manufacturing or mercantile businesses No work during first 2 hours polls are open * Yes * Fine up to $500
Minnesota Any voter Mornings of election day Yes * * Fine up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 90 days
Missouri Any voter 3 hours unless polls open 3 successive non-working hours Yes, if vote is cast Yes Yes Fine up to $2,500 and/or 1 year in jail
Nebraska Any voter Up to 2 hours unless polls open 2 hours before or after work Yes Yes Yes *
Nevada Any voter "Sufficient time" unless "sufficient time" exists during non-working hours; 1 to 3 hours depending on polls’ distances Yes Yes Yes Fine up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 6 months
New Mexico Any voter 2 hours unless work begins 2 hours after polls open or ends 3 hours before polls close 4 * Yes Fine of $50 to $100
New York Any voter "Sufficient time" unless "sufficient time" exists during non-working hours; 4 consecutive non-working hours while polls open is "sufficient" Limited to 2 hours Yes, 2-10 work days prior to election day Yes, at beginning or end of shift Fine of $100 to $500 and/or jail up to 1 year (first offense). Corporations also face forfeiture of charter
North Dakota Any voter Employers are encouraged to provide time off to vote when employee’s regular work schedule conflicts with times polls are open * * * *
Ohio Any voter Reasonable time (amount not specified) 4 * * Discharge or threat of discharge prohibited; fine of $50 to $500
Oklahoma Any voter 2 hours, more if necessary, except where employee has 3 hours before or after work to vote Yes, if vote is cast Yes Yes Fine of $50 to $100
South Dakota Any voter 2 hours, unless polls open 2 non-working hours Yes * Yes Fine up to $200 and/or jail up to 30 days
Tennessee Any voter Up to 3 hours unless polls open 3 hours before or after work Yes Yes Yes *
Texas Any voter Amount not specified; none if polls open for 2 non-working hours Yes * Yes5 Fine up to $500
Utah Any voter 2 hours between opening and closing of polls, unless polls open 3 or more non-working hours Yes Yes Yes Fine up to $1,000 and/or jail up to 6 months; for corporations, fine up to $5,000
Washington Any voter Up to 2 hours6 Yes * * *
West Virginia Any voter Up to 3 hours, if necessary, between opening and closing of polls Yes, unless has 3 hours non- working time to vote and chooses not to do so In writing 3 days before election *7 For corporations, fine up to $1,000; other employers/ individuals, fine up to $500 and/or jail up to 6 months
Wisconsin Any voter Up to 3 hours while polls open No Yes Yes *
Wyoming Any voter 1 hour, unless polls open 3 or more consecutive non-working hours Yes, if vote is cast * Yes, exclusive of meal times Fine up to $1,000 and/or county jail up to 6 months

*No express provision.

1If polls open before or after work, then enough time, when added to free time, to vote, up to 2 hours.
2May not include regular lunch period.
3Also up to 4 hours to request application or execute absentee ballot, on day appearing before clerk, during business hours.
4No provision but Attorneys General have construed law to require pay; in New Mexico, limited to 2 hours for hourly paid workers, except where workday ends more than 3 hours before polls close and no loss of pay; in Ohio, limited to salaried employees.
5No provision but Attorney General has construed law as giving employer right to designate hours, provided sufficient time is allowed.
6Does not apply if, after knowledge of work schedule on such election date, employee has sufficient time available for an absentee ballot to be secured.
7Employer may schedule time off to vote in essential government, health, hospital, transportation & communication services & in production, manufacturing & processing works requiring continuity of operations, but ample and convenient time & opportunity to vote.

SOURCE: CCH INCORPORATED LABOR LAW REPORTS, 2002

       


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