The season is upon us. No, not the holidays. The election season. And this year, things seems to be happening sooner than ever. Oklahomans who requested an absentee ballot are already voting, but voting by absentee ballot does not impact Oklahoma employers. Voting in person may.
Here is what Oklahoma employers need to know about the rights of employees to vote in person.
- Where and when can a registered Oklahoma voter vote in person?
Early in-person absentee voting is available in the county where the voter is registered. The dates and times for early in-person voting statewide are:
October 29 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
October 30 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
October 31 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
In-person voting is permitted on election day as well:
November 3 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.
- Does an employee have a protected right to time off work to vote?
Generally, yes, an employer is required to provide 2 hours of time off (without penalty or loss of pay) for the employee to vote “on the day of the election or on a day in which in-person absentee voting is allowed;” in other words, on any of the days mentioned above. You may require your employee to provide “proof of voting,” but realistically what is that? It is a low bar. Perhaps they bring you the “I Voted” sticker. Often, employers go on the honor system. (Employers should not press for any information as to the employee’s political leanings.)
There are lots of caveats to this general rule, so read on.
- Will the employer ever be required to give more than 2 hours off?
Yes. If it would require more than 2 hours to vote because the employee’s voting place is so far from work, the employer must provide “sufficient” time off to vote.
- Must the employee request the time off?
Yes. If an employee wants time off to vote, the employee must give 3 days’ advance notice.
- Must the employer always grant the requested time off to vote?
No. If the employee’s work day begins 3 hours or more after the polls open or if the employee’s work day ends 3 hours or more before the polls close, the employer does not have to grant the time off. This is because it is presumed 3 hours will be sufficient time to allow the employee to vote.
Additionally, the law allows an employer to “change the work hours to allow such three (3) hours before the beginning of work or after the work hours” so the employee can vote without the employer granting any time off. In other words, with that 3 days’ advance notice, you may be able to adjust an employee’s work schedule to both allow for a full work day and for 3 hours before or after that workday while the polls are open.
- Can the employee request when they want to vote?
They can request when they want to vote, but they cannot dictate it. The employer may “select the days and hours” when the employee is allowed to vote. As noted in the prior section, this is because the employer has the right to adjust work schedules to allow for a full work schedule and 3 hours before or after that work schedule for the employee to vote.
This law tries to balance both the employer’s need to keep work moving and the employee’s right to cast a vote without suffering any penalty.