OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As the election draws near, both employers and employees should start reviewing their company voting policies now before they hit the polls.
From providing paid time for employees to cast their vote, to discussing politics in the workplace, Crowe & Dunlevy labor and employment attorney, Michael Bowling, set the record straight on what is allowed this election.
First up, Bowling said Oklahoma law requires employers to provide registered voters the opportunity to vote.
“Whether that be during work time or if they have a schedule that allows them to have at least three hours to vote, either before the beginning of their schedule or at the end of the day,” said Bowling.
Oklahoma polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., so voters who start work at 10 a.m. or whose schedule ends at 4 p.m. or earlier do not need additional time away.
“For people whose schedule does not fit that, the employer needs to provide at least two hours within which the person can go to the polls in order to cast their ballot,” said Bowling.
That does not just apply on election day, rather any day that voting is available. But before you cast your vote, give your employer a heads up.
“According to the law, people need to provide at least three days notice to the employer,” said Bowling. “Many employers don’t require that. They require just one day notice, but the law requires employees provide at least three days notice before they go to vote.”
Bowling said the law requires employers to be flexible with this time.
“So one example specifically given in the statue is that if somebody works in an area where two hours won’t allow them to return back to their polling place, then the employer needs to provide additional time for the person to work and go vote,” said Bowling.
This flexibility could also count toward long lines, which could happen this election due to social distancing and sanitizing at the polls.
It is important to note that some employers will require proof of voting to guarantee the paid time off, such as presenting an ‘I Voted’ sticker.
As for political talk in the workplace, those rules can depend on who you work for.
“So if an employee works for a government-owned employer, either the state government or a local government or even the federal government, then those employers have much different rules when it comes to regulating speech in the workplace, because the constitutional right to free speech applies to government employers,” said Bowling.
Most people, though, work for private employers who are not bound by the rule of free speech.
However, topics pertaining to terms and conditions of employment, which can seem political, are allowed, wherever your workplace.
“Say the minimum wage, which is a political issue because it’s determined both by the federal or the state government, it’s also an issue about people’s wages, the terms and conditions of their employment, and that’s actually protected by federal law,” said Bowling.
Bowling also recommends for employers to remind supervisors what people’s rights are when it comes to voting, as well as have good, frank discussions ahead of the election to prevent complications or confusion.