Minnesota’s statute on employee voting leave was changed by the 2010 legislature. With the midterm election just days away, Minnesota employers need to note the change, as well as recall other election-related rights and duties.
In Minnesota an employee has a right to paid time off to vote. Before the 2010 change this right applied only on the morning of election day. The revised law applies all day as long as the polls are open. Employees have the right “to be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work.” Generally, an employer may not dock pay, personal leave, or vacation for voting leave. An employer who refuses, abridges, or interferes with an employee’s right to voting leave is guilty of a misdemeanor.
May employers impose any limitations on voting leave? Encouraging employees to vote “is an excellent way to promote civic engagement and support our democracy,” according to the Secretary of State. Many employers may be willing to go beyond statutory requirements to further these aims. That could be an issue under campaign finance laws, but not as long as the encouragement is clearly non-partisan. But even employers eager to promote civic engagement will want to avoid workday disruptions.
Unfortunately, there are virtually no decisions or regulations interpreting this statute, even in its previous form. In the absence of anything more definitive, the following is reasonable guidance for employers to consider in complying with their voting leave duties:
Other election-related laws that Minnesota employers should know about include an employee’s right to (unpaid) time off to serve as an election judge (provided the employee gives 20 days written notice), and the right of employees elected to public office to take (unpaid) time off to attend to their official duties.
Voting rights laws vary from state to state. Employers should ensure that they are familiar with the laws of each state where they employ workers.
If you have any questions about voting leave or other employment or labor matters, please contact Mark Mathison, Meghann Kantke, or any other member of GPM’s Employment Law practice group.
Mark S. Mathison
Meghann F. Kantke
This article is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. You are urged to consult a lawyer concerning any specific legal questions you may have.
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