With elections looming on November 3, it is important for employers to prepare for leave requests associated with voting. Federal law does not require employers to provide leave to vote, but most states do, especially when work hours do not allow sufficient time to vote while the polls are open. Laws also vary between states on the amount of time, whether notice is required, whether the time is paid, and whether the employer can dictate which hours the employee may take leave to vote.
In Kansas, employees are entitled to two consecutive hours of paid time to vote. However, outside the lunch break, employers may specify when the two-hour period may be taken and can require that the two-hour period be taken prior to or after an employee’s regular working hours. For example, if the polls are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm and the employee’s scheduled shift is from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, the employer does not have to provide paid leave because the employee has two consecutive hours after work to vote. Any employer who intentionally obstructs an employee from voting or imposes a penalty on an employee who takes leave to vote is subject to a class A misdemeanor.
One developing area of voting leave law is how employers handle the greater flexibility in voting. If the employee has the option to vote in advance or by mail, does the employee still qualify for leave? Kansas has not yet addressed this question, but it is best to be generous. Voting leave laws are meant to encourage voting in elections and punish an employer’s interference in the ability to vote. Employers are encouraged to follow the Kansas Voting Leave Law in a way that best benefits the employee.