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Texas law: employers must give workers paid time off to vote

Election Day is just around the corner now, but because there has been so much public encouragement about voting early, many people here in Houston may have already voted. For those who have not voted yet, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Many people who work traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. jobs will surely be able to fit in a trip to the polls before or after work. For others who work long days, it might be difficult to squeeze it in, but these workers should note that their employers may not infringe on their right to vote.

In Texas, employers are obligated by law to provide workers two consecutive hours off of work on Election Day so that workers can cast their votes. If someone already has two hours off during polling time, because they work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for example, then their employers are already in the clear.

For those workers who do not have a two-hour period away from work at anytime of the day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., their employers cannot cut their pay for coming to work late or leaving work early to vote.

For example, if a worker is scheduled to work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., his or her employer would need to either provide a paid two-hour lunch break, or allow the worker to leave at 5 p.m. without losing any pay, or make some other type of arrangement so that the worker has two hours to vote without it affecting his or her paycheck.

Many Texas employers are not aware that Texas is one of 32 states in the U.S. that mandates some type of voting leave. But, regardless of whether Texas employers are aware of their responsibility on Nov. 6, they can be fined $500 for denying employees time to vote, threatening employees who want to take time off to vote or docking pay.

Employees would be wise to ensure that their employers will be in compliance before Tuesday so that they can be sure their right to vote is not at risk.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Sixel: Time off to vote comes with job," L.M. Sixel, Oct. 31 2012

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