Time off to vote? Not according to state law

Many Michigan workers will be heading to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8, but they should not assume their employers are going to grant them time away from work to cast a ballot on Election Day.

Allowing time off to vote varies by state , in Michigan, the right to vote does not include the right to leave work to vote, says attorney Nicholas Huguelet of Detroit-based management side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law PC.

“While the majority of employers encourage their employees to vote, most do not create special schedules or policies allowing time off to vote and, in our firm’s experience, do not pay for time off to vote,” says Huguelet. “With absentee voting and extended poll hours before and after the traditional work day, there are several options available for workers to vote on their own time.”

 There are exceptions, however. Election Day has been a collectively-bargained holiday for the UAW and other unions for decades, and for many unionized workforces, the holiday naturally extended to the non-unionized workforce. If employers have policies in place to allow for time off to vote, Huguelet advises that the rules be well-defined as to whether advance notice is required so that temporary coverage can be arranged; who is required to arrange for coverage; whether the time off is paid or unpaid; how much advance notice is required; who must be notified; and how the notification must be made.

Michigan does provide some protections to employees when it comes to voting, Huguelet adds.

He notes that Michigan election law:

• 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.