By: Steve Collins

You know that it is Election Day and I need to take off to go vote.  Hold on, what you do on your time is your business, but what you do on work time is my business.  I do not mean any harm, but I need to go vote. That is fine, but if you do leave work now, you do not need to come back.

Tennessee Code Annotated Section 2-1-106 provides that the employee on the day of an election must be given “a reasonable period of time, not to exceed three (3) hours, necessary to vote during the time the polls are open in the county where the person is a resident.  The law also provides, however, that the employee must make application for the time off at least by 12:00 noon on the day before the election.  Further, the law provides that if the employee’s work begins three or more hours after the polls have opened or ends three or more hours before the polls close in the county where the employee is a resident, the employee is not entitled to the time off.  The employee “may not be subjected to any penalty or reduction in pay for such absence.”

Termination of an employee for engaging in an activity protected by a statute or regulation, can give rise to a wrongful discharge lawsuit. In the case of Hodges v. S.C. Toof & Co., 833 S.W.2d 896 (Tenn. 1992) a  Tennessee jury returned a verdict of $575,000 for a plaintiff found to have been wrongfully discharged  for engaging in a protected activity (jury duty).

If an employee makes an application to take off from work before lunchtime the day before the election and if the employee’s work does not start three or more hours after the polls in the county open or the employee’s work does not end three or more hours before the polls close in his county, you need to let the employee off to go vote.

Steve Collins focuses on employment law, domestic relations and premises liability in the Knoxville office.

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