All employees in Minnesota are entitled to time off from work on Election Day, and, perhaps, more time if they are in labor unions. Under Minn. Stat. §204C.04, subd. 1, employers must permit their workers who are eligible voters to be absent from work in order to vote “during the morning of the day of that election.” Curiously, the law does not address other times of election day. Employers cannot penalize employees or deduct salary or wages because of their absence. Violation of the leave law is a misdemeanor although the statute does not explicitly provide for civil enforcement by employees, nor does it name additional violations by employees who take time off but do not go to the polls to vote.
But the statute merely provides a minimum standard. Employers may have policies allowing more time off for employees for voting purposes. Collective bargaining agreements, which cover about 15 percent of the work force, often include additional election leave provisions more extensive than the state law minimum.
The mechanisms to enforce these provisions vary. Failure to provide time off as defined under an employer’s policy may be challenged through a breach of contract claim although it may not be very practical. Employees who abuse their time off rights could be subject to disciplinary action. The failure by a unionized employer to abide by leave provision in a collective bargaining agreement usually is subject to remedy through the grievance and arbitration provisions of the bargaining agreement.
Marshall H. Tanick
Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC