As Election Day draws closer, all employers should be mindful that Kansas and Missouri have adopted voting-leave laws that may require them to give their employees paid time off to vote on Election Day.
Kansas’ voting-leave law, under K.S.A. 25-418, provides that employees who are entitled to vote (registered voters) should be allowed to take off up to two consecutive hours, and be paid, between the time of opening and closing of the polls on Election Day. However, employers are not required to provide this leave if the employee has two consecutive non-work hours available while the polls are open. This means that if polls in the employer’s county are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm and the employee’s regular shift is from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, that employee would not be entitled to take time off during work because he or she could vote in the two hours available after work. However, if the employee’s regular shift is from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, that employee would be entitled to take two hours off during work to vote. Further, employers cannot require employees to use their meal breaks as part of the voting leave time. What employers can do is require employees to take voting leave at a specific time of the workday. The consequences for denying employees their voting rights can be harsh. In Kansas, obstruction of a voting privilege is a class A misdemeanor.
In Missouri, section 115.639, R.S.Mo., requires employers to allow employees who are entitled to vote (again, registered voters) three consecutive hours to vote during open polling hours. Similar to the Kansas law, no leave is necessary if there are three successive hours while the polls are open in which the employee is not working. If the employee votes, he or she must be paid for the voting time. In Missouri, the employee must make a request for leave to vote before Election Day in order to take advantage of the required leave. And the employer, like in Kansas, is allowed to specify which three hours will be granted. Any violation of this requirement is a “class four election offense,” a misdemeanor carrying potential punishment of up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
November 6 is just around the corner, and as such, employers should review their policies for compliance with state law requirements for providing employees time to cast their vote.