Paid Time Off to Vote? You May Qualify!
By: Joshua C. Black, Esq.
The 2020 presidential election could end up being the highest voter turnout seen in the U.S. in more than a century. As an American citizen, it is not only your right to vote, it is an important civic duty. But, what do you do if you have to work on Election Day?
Currently, there are 30 states in the U.S. that require business owners to give workers either paid or unpaid time off to vote on Election Day. Arizona requires that employees be given paid time off to vote under certain conditions.
Can my employer prevent me from voting?
According to Arizona Revised Statute 16-402, a person who is entitled to vote in a primary or general election may, on the day of the election, leave work for the purpose of voting if there are fewer than three consecutive hours:
· Between the opening of the polls and the beginning of their regular work shift, or
· Between the end of their regular work shift and the closing of the polls.
Employees cannot be fired for requesting time off to vote. Nor can an employer reduce their pay, decrease their hours, or take any disciplinary action against them for taking time off to cast a ballot.
What should employees do before Nov. 3?
It’s essential that you make a plan with your employer in advance of Election Day. Be straight forward and assertive about your desire to leave work to vote. If your employer tries to impede you or your co-workers’ rights, or says you aren’t allowed to take time off to vote, reach out to a competent employment attorney right away so the matter can be addressed before Nov. 3.
Be strategic about when you head to the polls, too. In Arizona, employers do not have to pay for more than three hours of leave, or allow an employee to take more than three hours off to vote. Poll officials anticipate unprecedented voter turnout this year, so do your due diligence to find out the slower times at your chosen polling place. Be aware, employers can dictate a specific timeframe where you are allowed to go to the polls. Open communication with your supervisor is key to ensuring you are able to cast your ballot.
Recourse for push-back from employer
If an employer refuses to let you vote, or threatens you with a penalty or reduction of wages, you may be able to pursue legal action against them. In that case, you will need to prove you qualified for time off under A.R.S. 16-402, demonstrate you followed the proper protocol to request time off, and establish that your employer either penalized you or denied your paid leave. Employers refusing an employee’s rights under the Arizona statute can face serious penalties and may be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.
Joshua C. Black is an Arizona attorney who provides focused representation in employment disputes. His Phoenix-area office represents clients in a variety of employment related matters including wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, disability discrimination, wage disputes and more. For additional information visit www.azemploymentlawyer.com/