Penalized For Exercising Your Right to Vote?
The elections are just about 5 weeks away. We’ve all been bombarded with ads and pleas telling us “Your Vote is Important!” The right to vote is a constitutional privilege for all workers, whatever your political beliefs may be. However, when the right to vote intersects with performing your regular job duties, there can be some tension. An employer, on the one hand, has a business to run, and expects its employees to be present to help make that happen. An employee, on the other hand, has a civic duty to vote, whether they exercise that duty or not. The tension between these two positions can sometimes create disharmony in the workplace.
Despite the importance of voting to the democratic process, there is no Federally mandated right to take off of work to vote. In Illinois however, the right to vote is a protected benefit available to all workers. In Illinois, employees entitled to vote have a right to be absent from work for a period of up to two hours between the opening and the closing of polls. This, however, is not a blanket right or one that can be invoked by employees without any regulation. Rather, employers should keep the following in mind on Election Day:
- Employees are entitled to take time away from work to vote only if they have applied or informed their employer of their need for time away from work before Election Day. Employers are not required under the law to allow an employee two hours off to vote if the request is made on Election Day.
- Employees are only entitled to up to two successive hours off to vote and cannot be penalized (i.e. have their pay docked or be disciplined or suffer any adverse work consequence) for exercising this right.
- The two-hour absence for voting may only occur during times when the polls are open. In Illinois, polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Only individuals “entitled to vote” in a general or special election or at any election at which propositions are submitted to popular vote are entitled to be absent for two hours to vote. Employers can request proof of an employee’s eligibility to vote when receiving a request for time off to vote during work hours.
- An employee may take two hours of leave during working hours if the employee’s working hours begin less than two hours after the opening of the polls and end less than two hours before the closing of the polls. The employer may specify when leave may be taken.
Illinois employers with 25 or more employees are also required to accommodate employees engaging in other election-related activities, such as serving as an election judge. An employee appointed to serve as an election judge is entitled to be absent from work for serving in that capacity. Once again, however, there are limitations on this right:
- An employee must give his or her employer at least 20 days written notice of his or her absence.
- Although an employer cannot penalize an employee for being absent to serve as an election judge, employers are not required to pay the employee for their time away from work to serve as an election judge.
With over 30 years’ experience in advising employees and businesses on labor and employment issues, such as school visitation rights, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the ever changing employment law landscape. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us through our website.