Tel: (414) 431-1920
Time to Vote, Your Job and Your Rights in Wisconsin, by Wyatt D. Dittburner and Gordon Leech.
Voting is generally considered a right of citizenship. In Wisconsin, Article III, Section 1 of the Wisconsin Constitution specifies who may vote and declares, “Every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district.”* But what if you have to work at your job and can't get to the polls in time to vote or just need to vote during the time you are scheduled to work your job?
While the Constitution declares who can vote, it says nothing about protecting your job so that you can go and vote. That is up to the law in your state. A good reference for voting rights by state is at http://www.workplacefairness.org/votingrights.
In Wisconsin, the focus of this article, employees actually do have the right to time off work, up to 3 successive hours, to go and vote without the putting yourself at risk of discipline--losing your job, termination of employment, reduction in pay, suspension or other adverse employment action. So, no, your employer may not fire you from your job for being absent from work to vote. Your job is actually protected.
But Wisconsin law does not give you, the employee, absolute freedom in the choosing when to vote, in taking time off without notice and you are not going to be paid for the hours you take off to vote. There some requirements on you to minimize the potential adverse impact on your employment.
Wisconsin Statutes 6.76 provides the substantive protection. Click Here to see Wis. Stat. 6.76 (2009).
So an employee is entitled to take up to 3 successive hours off of work to vote during a time when the polls are open. You must notify your employer before election day, not on election day, and the employer may designate the time of day for the absence.
Since the statute speaks in terms of "elector" instead of citizen or person, only those that fit the definition of elector will get the protections of this law. So, someone that is not entitled to vote is not likely to be protected by this law.
* Article III, Section 2, para. 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides certain exclusions from people who would be otherwise eligible to vote: those who have a felony conviction and have not had their rights restored or those adjudged by a court as incompetent with certain limitations.
Whether your rights were violated is a fact intensive inquiry. We review potential claims of employment discrimination on an individual consultation basis, where we discuss what occurred, the law and whether we are interested in representing you in pursuing a violation. To find out more, contact us.
Wyatt D. Dittburner is a May 2013, J.D. Candidate for his Juris Doctor at Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Wyatt is currently a Senior Law Clerk with the Consumer & Employment Law Center of Wisconsin.
Gordon Leech is an Attorney and Managing Member of the Consumer & Employment Law Center of Wisconsin, S.C., representing people in consumer and employment matters.