Time off to vote is not required by Michigan law, but employers who do encourage employees to participate in the electoral process should be careful
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Detroit-–-October 22, 2022—With midterm elections on Tuesday, November 8, it’s important for employers to consider now how to handle time off for voting while creating a positive work environment that encourages employees to perform their civic duty. Though many aspects of election administration are left to state and local governments, employers do have flexibility to implement policies that allow their employees to vote. Nick Huguelet, senior attorney at Detroit-based labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, advises employers to devise a company-wide voting policy.
“When it comes to voting, employers should have a policy that best fits the makeup of their workforce,” Huguelet said. “For example, if the company’s staff is remote, make it clear whether or not staff members are allowed to take a set amount of time out of their core work hours to vote.”
Some employers are contractually obligated to provide their employees with time off to vote. For example, many collective bargaining agreements render Election Day a holiday. Many companies with such agreements also extend the holiday to non-unionized workforce.
Regardless of how employers choose to implement election day policies, they should be cautious of influencing their employees’ vote choice. Michigan Election Law prohibits employers from discharging—or threatening to discharge—an employee in an attempt to influence the employee’s election decision and from promising something of value, such as bonuses, extra vacation days, wage increases, etc., to influence an election decision. Also prohibited, and without regard to whether one candidate is advantaged over another, is providing paid transportation to the polls. On September 15, 2022, after years of litigation, a federal judge denied a constitutional challenge to Michigan’s law against providing paid transportation to the polls for anyone who is physically able to walk.
For employers who want to encourage employees to vote, many options are available. In 2020, a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey noted that 52% of U.S. organizations were giving employees paid time off to vote in the election. In March 2022, the federal government joined the ranks of those employers, announcing that all federal employees may receive up to four hours of leave in order to vote in federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial elections. In considering company-wide policies surrounding voting procedures, Huguelet advises employers to ensure their policy includes the following:
- Whether time off is available and if so, whether it is paid or unpaid
- Well-defined language as to whether advance notice is required so temporary coverage can be arranged; if advance notice is required, ensure it’s clear how much notice must be provided and to whom the employee should give such notice
- Which jobs and shifts are required to arrange coverage
- Whether those who vote absentee get any considerations
“This is not an area that requires a complicated policy but having a policy in place benefits both employers and employees,” Huguelet noted.
About Nemeth Law, P.C.
Celebrating 30 years in 2022, Nemeth Law specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law, management consultation, arbitration, mediation, and workplace investigation for private and public sector employers. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.