As we approach local elections, it is good to remember that Texas law may require an employer to provide an employee with paid time off to vote. 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.
An employer can avoid this interruption and the payment for otherwise nonworking time by rescheduling 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).