Texas Employees Have a Right to Vote on Election Day (and to Be Protected From Retaliation)
Election Day—Tuesday, November 3, 2020—is quickly approaching, and employees might ask for time off to vote. Employers that simply say “no” to their employees might be violating Texas law.
Texas employees have a right to take paid time off to vote on Election Day. The Texas Election Code mandates that an employee must be given paid time off to vote if the polls close on Election Day within “two consecutive hours outside of the voter’s working hours.” For example, if an employee’s workday is scheduled to end at 5:30 p.m. on Election Day, and if the polls close at 7:00 p.m., then the employee is entitled to leave work at 5:00 p.m. to go vote and to receive 30 minutes of paid leave. To avoid being short-staffed at the end of Election Day, employers can suggest, but not demand, that employees try to vote early so they can avoid long wait times at the polls or bad weather.
The paid time off to vote is protected by law, so employers may not refuse to provide time off when employees are entitled to take it, threaten employees for trying to take it, or impose penalties upon employees who take the time off to vote. Providing paid time off applies to all employees, including exempt and non-exempt employees.
In addition to having the right to vote, Texas employees are protected from retaliation when it comes to how they vote. It is a felony to retaliate against an employee who voted for or against a particular candidate or measure, or who refuses to reveal how he or she voted. The anti-retaliation protection protects employees from actual or threatened “loss or reduction of wages or another benefit of employment.”
Employers with employees in other states may find that there is a good chance that those employees are also protected by similar laws, since more than half of the states have voting leave requirements.