Voting Leave Laws

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Do you know what your state requires when it comes to allowing employees time off to vote? Find out which states require voting leave and what employer actions might interfere with employees’ voting rights. 

With the upcoming election, employers may be wondering whether they must allow employees time off from work to vote.  Although there is no federal requirement here, many states provide some type of voting leave.

Among the states in Burr’s footprint, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee have enacted statutes requiring voting leave.  Delaware, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina do not have statutes expressly mandating voting leave.  However, statutes in those states may still prohibit employers from taking certain actions that could interfere with employees’ voting rights.

Alabama.[1] An employee may be absent from work for up to one hour in order to vote in municipal, county, state or federal primaries and elections if the employee’s work hours overlap with when polls are open.  For an employee to be eligible for this statutory leave, the employee’s work hours on election day should not otherwise begin two or more hours after the polls open or end two or more hours before the polls close.  In Alabama, polling hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

An employee intending to take time off to vote must give reasonable notice of the absence to the employer, and the employer may specify the time (up to one hour) during which the employee may be absent for voting.  The statute does not specify whether an employer must pay the employee during this voting leave.

Delaware.[2] Delaware does not have a voting leave statute.  However, Delaware makes it a criminal offense for an employer to threaten an employee who is a qualified Delaware voter with termination of employment in order to hinder, control, coerce or intimidate or to attempt to hinder, control, coerce or intimidate the employee from voting at any general, special or municipal election.  An aggrieved employee can also bring a civil action for violation of the statute and recover from the employer the sum of $500.

If an employee has accrued and available vacation time to use and the employee is not in a “critical need” position, an employer may also not deprive or threaten to deprive the employee of employment for serving as an election officer on an election day.  Employers may be fined up to $500 or imprisoned up to 6 months, or both, for violations.

Georgia.[3] Employees may take necessary time off, up to two hours, to vote in any municipal, county, state or federal political party primary or election.  To take a voting leave, (a) an employee must provide reasonable notice to the employer of the employee’s intent to be absent to vote and (b) the employee’s work schedule on election day must not otherwise begin two or more hours after the polls open or end two or more hours before the polls close.  Polling hours in Georgia start at 7 a.m. and end at 7 p.m.  Employers can specify the hours the employee may be absent from work to vote.

An employer who violates the statute is guilty of a misdemeanor. The statute does not specify whether an employer must pay the employee during this voting leave.

Florida.[4] In Florida, it is a third-degree felony if an employer discharges or threatens to discharge an employee for voting or not voting in any election, state, county or municipal.  Florida’s statute does not specify voting leave requirements.

Mississippi.[5] An employer doing business in Mississippi must not interfere with the exercise of voting rights of its employees.  A violating employer may be liable for a penalty of $250 recoverable by each aggrieved employee.

North Carolina.[6] An employer can be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor if the employer, directly or indirectly, discharges or threatens to discharge from employment in order to control how employees vote.  There is no voting leave statute in North Carolina.

South Carolina.[7] While there is no voting leave statute in South Carolina, employers are prohibited from discharging or using intimidation against an employee who exercises his or her voting rights.

Tennessee.[8] An employee who is entitled to vote in an election held in Tennessee may be absent from work on the election day for a reasonable period of time, not to exceed three hours, to vote during the time the polls are open.  To be eligible to use voting leave, an employee’s work schedule on election day must not otherwise begin three or more hours after the polls open or end three or more hours before the polls close.  In Tennessee, polling hours vary by county and each county determines the hours at least 15 days prior to the election.  The employee must also apply for voting leave prior to twelve noon on the day before the election.  The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent.

An employer is required to pay for an employee’s time off to vote because the statute prohibits employers from subjecting a voting employee to any penalty or pay reduction for his or her absence.

Take Action

With an upcoming high-profile election and the added uncertainty over voting procedures during the current pandemic, employers may wish to familiarize themselves now with their state’s requirements on voting leave and related issues.

 

[1] Ala. Code § 17–1–5

[2] Del. Code Ann., tit. 15, §§ 4709, 5162

[3] O.C.G.A. §§ 21-2-404, 21-2-598

[4] Fla. Stat. § 104.081

[5] Miss. Code Ann.§ 79-1-9

[6] N.C.G.S. § 163-274

[7] S.C. Code § 16-17-560

[8] Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-1-106

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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