As America gets ready to hire a new CEO, the Labor & Employment team will be issuing a series of alerts with a focus on pertinent issues related to the upcoming presidential election (e.g., voting rights, how this election might affect employers through executive orders, federal agencies, and upcoming employment-related Supreme Court cases). In the wake of this weekend’s second Presidential Debate, and in anticipation of employer questions to follow, we hold the floor with an alert on voting rights impacting employers.
A central theme of American democracy is the right to vote. Notably, however, there is no federal statute requiring employers to provide time off from work for employees to exercise that fundamental right. While federal law is absent, a majority of states mandate that employers provide time off for employees to vote. Moreover, a number of those states, including Texas, require not only that time be provided, but that in some circumstances, this time should be paid.
It is also important to remember that according to voting laws in many states, including Texas, employees must be free to take time off to vote without threats, intimidation or any other penalty. See Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 276.004. Additionally, employees cannot be penalized or receive benefits for voting for a particular candidate, or refusing to disclose how they voted. Id. Texas employers who violate these protections could face a Class C misdemeanor, and employers throughout the country who violate their respective state voting laws could face penalties/fines of up to $10,000 (e.g., individual employers in Missouri 1 may be fined $2,500, while Arizona2 corporations could be assessed up to $10,000) or, in some cases, jail time and even forfeiture of their corporate charter (e.g., New York 3 and Colorado 4).
In preparation for election day, employers—especially multistate employers—should ensure that any existing voting policies and any required notices comply with applicable state voting laws. Employers should also take measures to educate both managers and staff of relevant policies and affirm the right of all employees to exercise their civic duty.