Oct 26, 2016

It is almost Election Day! What are Illinois employers’ obligations on Election Day?

Our country goes to the polls on Nov. 8, 2016. Besides deciding which candidate will be our next President, voters will be casting votes for other federal, state and local positions and decide many referendums. Across Illinois, the polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Because of the increase in early voting opportunities, many votes will already be cast before the polls even open on Nov. 8. For information on early voting in the City of Chicago, go here. For early voting in Suburban Cook County, go here. Still, many voters will wait until Nov. 8 to make their decisions and 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. If an employee’s work schedule would otherwise limit their ability to vote, Illinois employers may be required to grant up to two hours of paid leave to employees who have notified them in advance of Nov. 8 to allow them to cast their votes. 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 Nov. 8. But, if an employee is scheduled to begin work less than two hours after the polls open on Election Day—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 Nov. 8. 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. Except in limited circumstances, employers do not have to offer paid leave to vote, but disciplining employees who are late because they faced delays when voting may quell 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