National elections are approaching and some Texas employees may be entitled to paid time off to vote in that election. The Texas Election Code makes it a Class C misdemeanor for an employer to refuse to allow an employee to be absent from work on election day for purpose of attending the polls to vote.
An employer is not, however, required to allow time off to vote if the polls are open on election day for voting for two consecutive hours outside of the employee’s working hours. For example, if you have an employee that regularly works 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break, an employer may have to give that employee time off from work on election day to attend to the polls and vote. In Texas, the election polls are generally open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
Because the term "penalty" means a loss or reduction in wages, an employer should provide paid time off for the employee to attend the polls to vote if the polls are not open on election day for at least two consecutive hours outside the employee’s working hours.
Employers who employee employees that might otherwise be entitled to time off to vote can take a several steps to avoid work interruptions and payment obligation for otherwise nonworking time on election day.
First, encourage employees to vote early. In Texas, all registered voters can vote during early voting and do not have to meet any special circumstances or eligibility requirements to vote early. Second, employers can rearrange work schedules on election day so that employees have two consecutive hours off while the polls are open (e.g., reschedule the employee to work 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on election day). Ideally, this should be done and communicated in advance so that employees have adequate time to arrange their schedule on election day to vote.
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