Mar 10, 2016

Super Tuesday Is Nearly Here: What Are Illinois Employers’ Obligations On Election Day?

Illinois goes to the polls for its primary election on March 15, 2016. Across the State, the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. With the increase in early voting opportunities, many votes may already be cast before the polls even open on Tuesday morning. Still, many more voters will wait until Tuesday to cast their votes. Illinois encourages its citizenry to participate fully in the voting process and has passed legislation that mandates – in certain circumstances -- up to two hours of paid election leave. Illinois employers may be required to grant this paid leave to employees who have notified them in advance of Tuesday where their work schedules would otherwise limit their ability to vote. 10 ILCS 5/17-15.

Encourage Employees to Cast their Votes Before or After Work Hours

Certainly, Illinois employers may encourage their employees to vote early and may remind their employees of the poll hours for voting on Tuesday. But, if an employee is scheduled to begin work less than two hours after the polls open on Tuesday – so before 8 a.m. – and to end work less than two hours before the polls close – so after 5 p.m. – that employee may seek up to two hours of paid time off to cast his vote on Tuesday. To minimize or reduce work conflicts, employers may specify the two hours during the employee’s work day that the employee may be absent to vote.

What about other employees? Best practices would discourage employers from disciplining employees who are late to work because they went early to vote but faced long lines or delays at their voting places. Illinois law expressly prohibits employers from disciplining employees who use paid election leave, but it is silent as to these other voters. Still, employers are permitted to encourage their employees to cast their votes outside of work hours where their work schedules do not restrict their access to the polls – for instance, if the employee is scheduled to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Employers are not required to offer paid leave to vote, but disciplining employees who are late because they faced delays when voting quells voter participation. Although employers may not want to suggest that delays will be present or that employees might be late if they vote before work, employers could require their employees to notify their supervisors if they anticipate being late. Employers also could require proof of voting, particularly if the employee is running late as a result.

Illinois is committed to encouraging all of its citizenry to participate fully in the voting process. Employers may find that encouraging voting and celebrating participation improves morale and elevates its work environment.

If you have questions about Illinois voting leave, don’t hesitate to contact any of Chuhak & Tecson’s Employment attorneys.

This Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. communication is intended only to provide information regarding developments in the law and information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute advice regarding legal problems and should not be relied upon as such.

Client Alert authored by: Jeralyn H. Baran, Principal