Primary Election season will soon be upon us. For Ohio, that day is March 15, 2016. For other states, that information is available here. Employers often have questions about voting leave—who is entitled to it; what they are required to provide; whether the leave must be paid; and what they are permitted and prohibited from doing on election day.

What voting leave is an employer required to provide?

Ohio employers must give their employees “reasonable time” to vote. The law does not define what constitutes “reasonable time,” nor does it define what restrictions or parameters an employer can place on voting leave. To be on the safe side, it is advisable that employers provide employees leave to vote even when employees are able to vote during non-working hours. Employers may want to establish policies requiring advance notice for voting leave or designating certain hours during each shift for voting leave. Neither of these restrictions are prohibited by the Ohio statute.

What is an employer prohibited from doing?

Ohio Revised Code § 3599.06 prohibits employers from discharging or threatening to discharge an employee for taking a “reasonable amount of time to vote.” The law also prohibits employers from (1) requiring an employee to accompany them to a voting place, (2) refusing to permit an employee to serve as an election official on any registration or election day, or (3) indirectly using any force, restraint, threats, or intimidation to induce or compel a person to vote—or refrain from voting—for or against any person, question or issue.

Does an employer have to pay an employee for time spent voting?

The statute does not indicate whether an employer is required to pay the employee for voting leave. The Ohio Attorney General interpreted O.R.C. § 3599.06 to require employers to pay only exempt employees for voting leave, which is consistent with the requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employers, however, do not have to pay hourly, commissioned or piecework employees for voting leave.

What is the penalty for violating the law?

Employers who violate O.R.C. § 3599.06 face a $50-$500 fine. Employers may also find themselves facing a wrongful discharge case if they ultimately terminate an employee for an absence or conduct related to voting leave.