Thirty-one U.S. states have laws requiring employers to give workers time off to vote. The penalties for employers who don’t give workers time off to vote can be severe.
In the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, Election Day is a legal holiday. This includes any day a referendum is held. General elections are legal holidays in the Virgin Islands, and employees who give prior notice must be permitted two hours off, with pay, to vote.
Internationally, in many countries, election day is a national holiday and most employees have the entire day off to vote. Often the employees delight is somewhat mitigated by the fact that bars are also closed, by law, on election day.
“Employers who violate time-off-to-vote laws face penalties that range from trivial to a corporate death sentence,” said David Stephanides, an attorney specializing in employment law.
Kansas and Missouri employers face the larges fines for not giving workers time off to vote. In those states, an employer may be subject to fines of up to $2,500 per employee – as long as the employee is a registered voter.
Arizona permits fines up to $10,000 for corporations that interfere with an employee’s right to vote by not giving the required time off. But in New York and Colorado, corporations can be stripped of their charters – in effect, disbanded – if they are found in violation of the state voting law.
Employers who try to influence an employees vote unfairly can receive fines of up to $10,000 plus up to 5 years in jail, in Nebraska.
Several other states have laws requiring time off to vote, but no penalty is specified.
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