All elections are important; it’s just that some elections seem more important than others. Presidential election cycles always fall into that latter category, and thus this upcoming primary election, and then the general election in November, are of perceived, if not actual, greater consequence. Never mind Tip O’Neill’s quip that “all politics are local.” As an employee eligible to vote, you have certain rights that assure you the opportunity to vote. An as an employer, you have an obligation to permit your employees to exercise their right to vote.
In Missouri, polling hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The law in Missouri is that an employer is only required to give time off for voting to an employee if there are not at least three consecutive hours during which the polls are open and the employee is not then scheduled to be working for the employer. An employee whose workday starts at 9 a.m. would have three consecutive hours during which the polls are open to vote, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., thus his or her employer is not required to give additional time off. There is no requirement to accommodate the employee’s preferences as to the time he or she would prefer to vote.
In the situation where an employee works a twelve-hour shift from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., a Missouri employer would be required to give its employee time off to vote because there are not three consecutive hours during which the polls are open when the employee is not in the service of the employer. However, the employer does not have to provide three hours of paid time off, but rather, only additional time to make a total of paid and unpaid time equal to three hours in which to vote. Employers may not deduct from an employee’s salary or wages for this time off, nor discipline employees in any way for taking time off to vote. However, employers may specify the three hours in which its employee must vote. Thus, an employer could require such an employee to vote between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and would only have to compensate for the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. two-hour period that is part of the employee’s usual shift.
It is important to note that employees must give advance notice of their intended absence prior to Election Day. In the case of an employee first approaching their employer on Election Day and asking for time off to vote, the employer may legally deny the request. Also, employees may be required to provide proof to their employer of voting eligibility and proof of voting as a condition to being protected under Missouri law. Failure in either instance can result in the imposition of normal disciplinary action being taken against the absent or tardy employee.