Monday, March 3, 2008

Employers must allow time off for employees to vote

A reader asked whether Ohio employers are required to provide employees time off to vote - a timely question given tomorrow' presidential primary. Ohio Revised Code section 3599.06 provides:

No employer, his officer or agent, shall discharge or threaten to discharge an elector for taking a reasonable amount of time to vote on election day.... Whoever violates this section shall be fined not less than fifty nor more than five hundred dollars.

Hourly employees do not have to be paid for the reasonable amount of time off they take to vote. To avoid jeopardizing a salaried employee's exempt status, those employees should not be docked.

A quick LEXIS search did not reveal any cases in which an employee claimed a wrongful discharge based on a termination in violation of 3599.06. It is unclear whether the $50-$500 fine sufficiently addresses the public policy so that the termination would not place the public policy behind the statute in jeopardy. The issue muddy at best, such that firing a employee for taking a marginally reasonable amount of time off to vote would be a high risk termination that very well might have to be defended in court.