November 8 is shaping up to have one of the largest voter turnouts in history. As such, Texas employers should ensure they comply with election voting laws as they relate to employees. Chapter 276 of the Texas Election Code sets certain requirements for employers. Below are some do’s and don’ts for employers with voting employees:
- DON’T PROHIBIT EMPLOYEES FROM VOTING. Perhaps this one is obvious, but it is unlawful for employers to prohibit employees from voting or to threaten them for voting. This includes denial of time off to vote as addressed below.
- DO ALLOW EMPLOYEES TWO HOURS TO VOTE. If an employee does not have two consecutive hours outside working hours during which the polls are open, a Texas employer must allow the employee extra time off to vote. Such time off is paid unless it is outside working hours. That said, it does not apply if an employee has already voted during early voting procedures.
- DON’T RETALIATE AGAINST VOTERS. Employers cannot retaliate against a voter who votes for or against a particular candidate or measure, or who refuses to tell you how they voted. For instance, it is unlawful for an employer or manager to threaten loss or reduction of wages or other employment benefits in retaliation against a voter who votes a particular way or won’t reveal how they voted.
- DO EDUCATE MANAGERS ABOUT VOTING LAWS. Employers should train managers, supervisors, HR, payroll and other personnel about their obligations under the Texas Election Code.
- DO RESEARCH OTHER STATE VOTING LAWS. Remember, voting laws vary from state to state. So, if you have employees in other states, make sure you look into the local requirements or consult with legal counsel.
- DO REVIEW LEAVE POLICIES. Employers should also ensure that handbook, non-retaliation, leave and other policies and procedures comply with Texas and other local voting laws.
Offenses under the Chapter 276 of the Texas Election Code are Class C Misdemeanors and could subject employers and individuals to fines (as well as bad press). With early voting in full swing and the election fast-approaching on November 8, it is important for employers to take a moment to ensure they are up to speed with voting laws.