Election Day is almost upon us, and voter turnout this year is expected to be high. Unlike in the past, when companies had eight-hour working shifts and most people had the flexibility to vote either before or after work, work schedules have become increasingly demanding, and some employees will need to take time off on November 8 to exercise their constitutional right.

The Texas Election Code advocates for all employees, including temporary and seasonal workers, to be given at least two hours off to vote by their employers. This time needs to be paid if it falls within the employee’s normal working hours, but not if the two hours are available outside of his or her normal working hours.

Employers must not threaten or intimidate any employee for taking time off to vote, and the employer must not penalize the employee for refusing to divulge how he or she voted.

Other guidelines to know as we approach Election Day 2016:

  • Different states have different rules regarding time off to vote, and employers should ensure compliance with voting rules in all states in which they operate.
  • Employers must give all employees equal time to vote to avoid the appearance of discrimination and/or voter disenfranchisement.
  • Employers will want to plan ahead and find out whether employees have already participated in Early Voting so that they can manage staffing levels on Election Day.
  • The law does not prohibit employers from asking for proof of voting when they have given time off for that specific reason.
  • Employers operating in multiple states are allowed to employ a common voting policy for all workers that comply with the laws of each state, or they may set up distinct policies for each state in which they operate.
  • In Texas, employees are not required to give advance notice for leave before the election date. However, the employer can create a policy that requires employees to give notice and take measures for failure to comply.

Be sure to inform your employees of your policy and to ensure your managers and supervisors understand your legal obligations. Confusion over what is and is not permitted could lead to a situation that lands your company in serious trouble.

For more information, visit the Voting — Time Off page on the Texas Workforce Commission website.