As Election Day draws near, employers should take a moment to brush up on the voting rights of their employees. Minnesota employees have the right to be absent from work to vote on Election Day without penalty or deduction from their salary or wages. The laws regarding Election Day leave differ somewhat under Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota law. North Dakota law does not specifically grant employees the right to leave on Election Day. Employers should familiarize themselves with applicable Election Day statutes prior to November 6th to avoid violation of any applicable voting laws.
In Minnesota, employees are entitled to paid time off to vote in an election. Specifically, Minnesota law gives employees who are eligible to vote the right “to be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of that election, without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence.” Minn. Stat. § 204C.04, subd. 1. Minnesota law does not offer any guidance to employers as to the required length of absence each employee may receive, or whether the employee is required to give their employer notice of their absence. Minnesota employers must be sure not to “directly or indirectly refuse, abridge, or interfere with this right or any other election right of an employee.” Id. Any adverse action against the employee, including demotion, reprimand, and termination could be construed as refusing, abridging or interfering with the employee’s right to vote. Employers who violate the voting rights of employees under section § 204C.04 are guilty of a misdemeanor.
Minnesota law also provides that employees selected to serve as an election judge are entitled to time off from work. See Minn. Stat. § 204B.195. The employee must give the employer at least 20 days’ written notice of the absence, and must include a certification of the appointing authority indicating the election judge’s hourly compensation. An employer may reduce the salary or wages of the employee serving as an election judge by the amount the employee is paid to serve as an election judge. The employer may also restrict the number of employees absent from work to serve as an election judge to no more than 20 percent of the total workforce at any single worksite. The employer may not otherwise penalize the employee serving as an election judge.
Wisconsin law explicitly addresses the length of time off employees may take to vote and the manner of notifying the employer of voting-related absences. Wisconsin employers must allow employees up to three successive hours to vote while the polls are open. Unlike in Minnesota, however, Wisconsin employees are required to “notify the affected employer before election day of the intended absence. The employer may designate the time of day for the absence.” Wis. Stat. § 6.76, subd. (1). Further, Wisconsin employees are not entitled to pay during their absence to vote. Section 6.76 states that “[n]o penalty, other than a deduction for time lost, may be imposed on an elector by his or her employer by reason of the absence authorized by this section.” Wisconsin employers must allow employees time off to vote, but are likely to experience less disruption in the workplace because employees must inform the employer of their absence ahead of time, allowing the employer to coordinate absences accordingly.
Iowa law goes a step further than Wisconsin law because the law considers whether the employee has time to vote during his or her time off of work. Iowa law provides that an employee eligible to vote who does not have three consecutive hours outside of work during the time the polls are open “is entitled to such time off from work to vote as will in addition to the person’s nonworking time total three consecutive hours during the time the polls are open.” Iowa Code § 49.109. Iowa employees must request time off to vote before Election Day, and the request must be in writing. The employer may determine when the employee can take time off to vote. The employer must pay the employee for the time off to vote and cannot penalize the employee for taking the time off.
South Dakota law also considers whether the employee has time outside of work to vote. South Dakota law provides that an employee eligible to vote who does not have two consecutive hours outside of work to vote during the time the polls are open is “entitled to absent himself form any service or employment in which he is then engaged or employed for a period of two consecutive hours between the time of opening and the time of closing the polls.” S.D. Codified Laws § 12-3-5. The employer may determine when the employee can take time off to vote. The employer must pay the employee for the time off to vote and cannot penalize the employee for taking the time off.
North Dakota law does not grant employees any voting rights. Instead, the North Dakota legislature has codified a policy encouraging employers to grant employees leave to vote. North Dakota law provides, “employers are encouraged to establish a program to grant an employee who is a qualified voter to be absent from the employee’s employment for the purpose of voting when an employee’s regular work schedule conflicts with voting during time when polls are open.” N.D. Cent. Code § 16.1-01-02.1. As a result, North Dakota employers are free to grant or deny employee’s requests for leave to vote as they see fit.
Summary of Employees’ Voting Rights
|State||Employee Voting Rights|
Employee has the right to take paid time off from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on Election Day.
Employee has the right to take time off to serve as election judge; employee must provide 20 days’ written notice with certification of hourly compensation; employer may reduce employee’s wages by the amount of hourly compensation received for election judge services; employer may limit number of employees absent from work to no more than 20 percent at each worksite.
|Wisconsin||Employee has the right to take unpaid time off up to three consecutive hours; employee required to notify employer before Election Day; employer may designate time of day for absence.|
Employee has the right to take paid time off for such time off as will in addition to the person’s non-working hours total three consecutive hours to vote; employee is required to notify employer before Election Day in writing; employer may designate time of day for absence.
|South Dakota||Employee has the right to take paid time off up to two consecutive hours, provided that the employee does not have two consecutive non-working hours to vote; employer may designate time of day for absence.|
|North Dakota||Employee has no voting rights – the legislature simply “encourages” employers to to establish a program to grant employees time off to vote.|
If you have any questions about the right of employees to take time off on Election Day, please contact any of the employment attorneys at Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A. View our Initial Legal Consultation Policy.