With Election Day fast approaching on November 8th, you may be wondering whether you can take time off from work to vote – without getting fired for it. In a year where there are divisive lines between supporters of the two main presidential candidates, you don’t want to give your boss a reason to terminate your employment – especially if they think you’re supporting the wrong candidate.
Although the right to vote is guaranteed by the federal constitution, there is no federal law that requires employers give employees time off to vote. Instead, it comes down to each individual state to govern whether employees have the right to take time off from work to vote.
Many states give employees some right to take time off from work to vote. Other states, however – such as Virginia – have no legislation allowing voter leave,
In West Virginia, employees have the right to take time off from work to vote without retaliation – under certain circumstances.
- The Three Hour Rule – Employees who do not have three hours of their own time to vote during polling hours can take up to three hours paid leave from work to vote. However, employees who already have three or more hours available to vote outside of their normal work hours are not entitled to leave work to vote. For example – the polls in West Virginia are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. So a person whose work schedule starts at 9:30 a.m. (or later), or ends at 4:30 p.m. (or earlier) is not entitled to leave from work to vote.
- Advance Written Notice – Employees who are eligible to take leave from work to vote must request leave, in writing, at least three days before Election Day. Failure to provide this written notice could, theoretically, give an employer a reason to terminate employment as an unexcused absence from work.
- Essential Operations – In certain “essential” jobs – defined under West Virginia election law as government, health, hospital, transportation and communication services and production, manufacturing and processing jobs that require continuity in operation – the employer may, upon receiving written request for time off to vote, schedule the hours that employers will be allowed to leave work to vote. This scheduled time off must be “ample and convenient.”
In short, an employer should not be able to fire you for exercising your constitutional right to vote. However, employees should be familiar with the laws regarding taking time off from work to vote. Failure to follow the written notice provisions, for example, could give an unscrupulous employer a reason to terminate your employment – albeit a pretextual one that could be challenged in court.