Can I be fired for voting for a particular candidate? Am I entitled to paid time off to vote on Election Day?

November 3, 2020

Feature


Today is Election Day! Many Texans who have not participated in early voting will head to the polls today to cast their ballot in federal, state, and local elections. Let's take a look at several Texas statutes that protect employees' right to vote.

The Texas Election Code has several statutes that provide voting protections for employees. Section 276.001 Retaliation Against Voter makes it a third-degree felony for an employer to retaliate against an employee for voting for or against a particular candidate or refusing to disclose who they voted for:

(a) A person commits an offense if, in retaliation against a voter who has voted for or against a candidate or measure or a voter who has refused to reveal how the voter voted, the person knowingly:
  (1) harms or threatens to harm the voter by an unlawful act; or
  (2) with respect to a voter over whom the person has authority in the scope of employment, subjects or threatens to subject the voter to a loss or reduction of wages or another benefit of employment.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.

Additionally, Section 271.004 Unlawfully Prohibiting Employee From Voting makes it a Class C misdemeanor for an employer to refuse to permit an employee to take time off for the purpose of voting on Election Day, and an employer must provide the employee with paid time off to vote if the polls close within two hours of their scheduled work time:

(a) A person commits an offense if, with respect to another person over whom the person has authority in the scope of employment, the person knowingly:
  (1) refuses to permit the other person to be absent from work on election day for the purpose of attending the polls to vote; or
  (2) subjects or threatens to subject the other person to a penalty for attending the polls on election day to vote.
(b) It is an exception to the application of this section that the person's conduct occurs in connection with an election in which the polls are open on election day for voting for two consecutive hours outside of the voter's working hours.
(c) In this section, "penalty" means a loss or reduction of wages or another benefit of employment.
(d) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

The National Law Review has a good example of how this works in their article Texas Employees Have a Right to Vote on Election Day (and to Be Protected From Retaliation):

For example, if an employee’s workday is scheduled to end at 5:30 p.m. on Election Day, and if the polls close at 7:00 p.m., then the employee is entitled to leave work at 5:00 p.m. to go vote and to receive 30 minutes of paid leave. To avoid being short-staffed at the end of Election Day, employers can suggest, but not demand, that employees try to vote early so they can avoid long wait times at the polls or bad weather.

Additionally, the Texas Workforce Commission has a publication titled Especially for Texas Employers that discusses the Texas protections for time off to vote. This publication includes information on several Attorney General opinions that address this matter directly. We've noticed that the links for several of these opinions appear to be broken due to an outdated numbering system, so here's how to access them directly:

You can find more information on voting in Texas on our Voting in Texas research guide. If you have questions about voting, feel free to ask a librarian directly! Happy voting!


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