With elections around the corner, Ogletree Deakins Shareholder Jill Morris reminds companies that “election season is always a good time to revisit company policies about voting rights and to make sure your company’s human resources personnel are familiar with employees’ right to vote.”

Missouri and Kansas law requires employers to provide paid time off to vote and prohibits discipline, termination, and other penalties for employees exercising voting rights. However, the amount of leave and notice requirements vary between the two states.

Missouri law requires employers to provide employees up to three hours of paid leave between poll hours to vote if:

  • The employee makes the request for voting leave prior to election day; and
  • The employee does not have three consecutive non-working hours on election day to vote.

In Missouri, polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Under the non-working hour rule, if an employee is only scheduled to work from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on election day, the employee is not entitled to paid voting leave under Missouri law because the polls are still open for four consecutive hours after the employee’s shift ends.

Kansas law requires employers to provide employees up to two consecutive hours of paid leave between poll hours to vote. Kansas polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST, and from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. MST, unless different hours are set and publicly announced by the county election officer. To the extent the polls are open before and after an employee’s shift, Kansas employers are only required to provide sufficient leave to permit the employee up to two hours to vote. For example, if an employee is scheduled to work between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., his or her employer is only required to provide one hour of paid voting leave. Unlike Missouri law, Kansas law does not require employees to request voting leave in advance of election day.

Missouri and Kansas employers – as opposed to the employees – may specify the timing of paid voting leave. Kansas employees cannot, however, be required to take paid voting leave during lunch.

Stacy Bunck, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins’ Kansas City office who frequently counsels employers on leave policies, cautions that penalties may be assessed when employees are denied the right to vote. Kansas employers that violate voting laws are subject to a class A misdemeanor, and Missouri employers are subject to a class four election offense.