The barrage of political television commercials and candidate debates, coupled with changing leaves reminds us all November 6th is right around the corner. For the first time, I am experiencing a political campaign from a new vantage point. I am running for the Maplewood City Council. There was a late summer resignation on the City Council, and I decided to throw my hat into the ring. I laced up my walking shoes this weekend and canvassed my neighborhood, hot on the campaign trail. I am delivering more campaign signs tomorrow, and calling local voters.

This is a good time for employers to remember their obligations about employee voting rights as outlined in Minnesota statutes. “Every employee who is eligible to vote in an election has the right to be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of that election, without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence. An employer or other person may not directly or indirectly refuse, abridge, or interfere with this right or any other election right of an employee.” 

This means employees must be given adequate time off to cast their ballot on Election Day. What is adequate time can be interpreted to mean reasonable time off. Employers should check their policies, and in a union setting, the collective bargaining agreement, for further information about what may be required.  

To insure work coverage, employers may want to talk with employees the day prior to the election and inquire about what time employees may be voting, to insure smooth operations on Election Day. If an employee falsely takes time off on November 6, but does not cast a ballot, they may be subject to discipline. On the other side, nothing an employer does should be viewed as somehow refusing, abridging, or interfering with an employee’s right to vote. Violation of the Minnesota election law by an employer is a misdemeanor.