As Election Day nears, employment law attorneys remind employers that they could run afoul of state laws if they dont allow employees time off to vote.
By DIANE STAFFORD
The Kansas City Star
As a practical matter, the laws wont affect many Kansas City area workplaces, mainly because there are opportunities for advance voting in Kansas or enough time for most employees to hit the polls before or after their work shifts.
But here are the rules:
• In Kansas, employers must allow up to two hours of paid time off if Election Day polls arent open outside of the employees mandatory work shift. The employer can specify the time to be taken off but cant require the employee to use a meal break for the time.
• In Missouri, employers must allow up to three consecutive hours of paid time off. The employee must ask for the time before Election Day, and the employer may specify the time to be taken.
With some county-by-county variations, polls will be open 12 or 13 hours on Nov. 6, so most employees would have the required consecutive hours of voting time available outside their work hours.
But the law could apply, for example, if a Missouri voter is required to be at work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. That leaves only two consecutive hours before work and two after work one shy of the three-hour requirement so the employee could request one hour of paid time off.
The law applies to hourly and salaried workers, union and nonunion, alike.
Nancy Leonard, a lawyer at Constangy Brooks & Smith in Kansas City, said all sizes of employers are covered by the statutes, and all would be subject to penalties for violations. A violation could include docking a workers pay for the voting time off.
Kansas classifies offenses as misdemeanors, and Missouri considers violations a class four election offense, Leonard said. Employees who believed their rights were violated would have to take their cases to the prosecuting attorneys in their counties, she said.
Time-off-to-vote laws are enacted by states; theres no relevant federal law.
In Kansas, election laws allowing advance voting have made it easier for workers to cast their votes if they dont want to worry about getting to the polls on Election Day.
To reach Diane Stafford call 816-234-4359 or send email to email@example.com.