It has long been the law in Minnesota that employees who are eligible to vote have the right to be absent from work on the morning of election day for the purpose of voting. During the 2010 session, however, the Minnesota State Legislature amended the voting leave statute to allow an employee who is eligible to vote to be absent from work at any time during the work day on election day "for the time necessary to appear at the employee's polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work." Minn. Stat. § 204C.04. The statute still provides that the absence for voting must be "without penalty or deduction from salary or wages," which means that the employee must be paid for the voting time missed.
Because Minnesota's law strictly prohibits an employer from refusing or interfering with this right, an employer should not deny an employee time off to vote, even if the employer feels the employee has sufficient time to vote outside of his or her scheduled work hours. The question of whether an employer can require employees to vote at a particular time in the day in order to minimize disruption to its operations is not addressed by the statute. So long as the employee is allowed adequate time to vote during the work day, however, the risk to the employer for dictating a particular time at which the voting leave may be taken is minimal.
With the November elections quickly approaching, employers with Minnesota employees should review their voting leave policies and procedures to reflect the changes, particularly to remove any specific reference to time off on the morning of election day. In addition, employers should train managers who may be on the receiving end of voting leave requests. .