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Can I get in trouble for taking off work to vote? Here’s how laws differ by state

Can I get in trouble for taking off work to vote? Here’s how laws differ by state
[Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash]

Election Day finally here, which (hopefully) means tens of millions of people will go to their designated polling places and cast their ballots in the name of U.S. democracy. While some workplaces make accommodations for employees taking time off to go vote, for others it’s a bit more complicated. And the laws requiring that employers grant time off to vote change from state to state.

New York and California, for instance, have very strict laws requiring that workplaces allow employees to vote. If a company denies workers that right, then they may lose their corporate charter. In Arizona, a company could be fined as much as $20,000 for refusing to let people take time off to vote. And in Kansas and Missouri, supervisors restricting employees from going to the polls face a fine. Conversely, states like Delaware, Florida, and Louisiana do not have laws requiring that companies provide employees with time off.

Some states with laws don’t impose real consequences–so even if the law says they must allow workers the time to vote, many companies may not follow it. And others have very specific rules about how much time workers are allowed and when during their shifts they can take it. For example, in Oklahoma, an employee is allowed two hours to go to the polls–that is, unless they live so far away that more time is needed.

As the organization Workplace Fairness points out, businesses likely won’t want word getting out that they’re trying to bar employees from voting. “If word gets out that a particular company prevents its employees from voting,” the advocacy group writes in a blog post, “the company faces a potential public relations problem, which may be more of a concern than any fine a government agency might impose.” Still, it’s helpful to have your time off because of civic duty backed up by law.

The organization also built an interactive map to help people figure out exactly what their state laws are. Does your state offer one hour of paid time off to vote? Does it require that you schedule it? Are there exceptions to your state’s rule? You can learn that all here.

When casting your ballot today, it’s important that you know your rights. It’s also, of course, extremely important to vote, too.

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