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Detroit-–-September 28, 2020—A 2018 report noted a then-record 44% of U.S. firms were giving employees paid time-off to vote in the midterm elections. For this year’s presidential election on November 3, that number is expected to jump even higher, thanks to growing national efforts like Time to Vote or ElectionDay.org, which encourage employers to make their workplace vote friendly, incentivizing workers to vote via paid-time-off or unpaid options that ease barriers to voting on Election Day. Some employers are even helping employees get registered to vote.
In Michigan, it’s a mixed bag of policies, but the right to vote does not include the right to leave work to vote, much less be paid for it, according to attorney Nicholas Huguelet of Detroit-based management side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, P.C. That being said, many unionized Michigan workers do have a long-standing tradition of getting paid time off to vote. For example, Election Day has been a collectively bargained holiday for the UAW and other unions for decades, and for many unionized companies, the holiday naturally extended to the non-unionized workforce.
“While the majority of employers encourage their employees to vote, it’s not until recent years that we’ve seen this trend toward allowing paid or unpaid leave time to vote among non-union workers,” Huguelet said. “According to ElectionDay.org, more than 700 companies have signed on in support of their efforts, and 1,100+ have signed on to Time to Vote, so there is definitely some competitive pressure, if not personal conviction by employers, to make voting as easy as possible this year.”
Employers should clearly explain voting day policies
With the expected increase in absentee and mail-in voting, employers with time-off-to-vote policies will need to specifically tailor policies accordingly – unless they give a flat number of hours off on Election Day, paid or unpaid, regardless of how someone votes. Huguelet advises the following for employer voting policies:
- Have well-defined language as to whether advance notice is required so that temporary coverage can be arranged
- Define which jobs and/or shifts are required to arrange for coverage
- Explain whether the time off is paid or unpaid
- Explain whether those who vote absentee and do not need to leave work to vote, get any considerations
- Clarify how much advance notice is required, who must be notified, and how the notification must be made
Michigan Election Law provides some protections to employees
- Prohibits employers from discharging—or threatening to discharge—an employee in an attempt to influence the employee’s election decision
- Prohibits employers from promising something of value, such as bonuses, extra vacation days, wage increases, etc., to influence an election decision
About Nemeth Law, P.C.
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.