Early voting opened this week in Texas and election day is not far behind. Many employers may not know, but Texas voting laws require them to give employees time off to vote. Below are a few Do’s and Don’ts for employers when it goes to providing voting leave:
DON’T PROHIBIT EMPLOYEES FROM VOTING. Maybe a little obvious, but prohibiting employees from voting, threatening employees for voting, or retaliating in the form of reduction of wages for voting is illegal.
DO ALLOW EMPLOYEES AT LEAST TWO HOURS TO VOTE. If an employee does not have two consecutive hours outside working hours during which the polls are open (usually, 7 AM to 7 PM in Texas), an employer must allow time off to vote. Said time off must be paid. The Texas Workforce Commission recommends that providing two hours is fair. If employees have voted during the early voting process, then paid time off does not apply. However, employers cannot require employees to vote in the early voting process.
DON’T RETALIATE AGAINST VOTERS. Employers cannot retaliate against an employee based on whom or what they vote for or against, or if they refuse to tell you how they voted.
DO DOCUMENT VOTING-LEAVE POLICIES. The best policies are well-documented and enforced by the company. Employers should educate employees on how they plan to implement a policy, including if they will require employees to bring in a sticker as proof of voting or request changes in schedules in advance. Note: nothing in the statute prohibits employers from asking for proof of voting, but it is not mandatory that employees provide such proof. Additionally, there is no requirement an employee give notice to their employer of their intent to vote, but employers may create and enforce a policy necessitating notice.
DO RESEARCH OTHER STATE VOTING LAWS. Voting laws change from state to state. So, if you have employees working in other states, research local requirements or ask your legal counsel.
If employers do not adhere to the Texas Election Code, the penalty is a Class C misdemeanor which could mean fines and a lot of bad press. So, before November 6th make sure your adequately providing time off to vote.
For where to vote, please visit: https://www.votetexas.gov/voting/where.html