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Voting Rights for Missouri Employees – RSMo 115.639 – employers are sometimes required to give 3 paid hours off work to vote, but not always. You must request time off BEFORE election day, and meet the conditions I describe below.

Missouri employee voting rights are described in Missouri Law RSMo 115.639 . I have copied the law down below in this article. By the way, the Missouri Secretary of State put up a website – Vote Missouri – of general info about voting, but I could not find any mention on that site of the rights of Missouri employees to time off to vote.

According to RSMo 115.639, employers must grant you three hours off work to vote, without reducing your pay, under the following conditions:

  • 1. You make a request for the time off, BEFORE ELECTION DAY.
  • 2. Your work schedule is such that you will not have 3 consecutive hours, outside of work, in order to vote. The polls are open 6AM to 7PM, so if your work day starts at 9AM or later, OR it ends by 4PM or earlier, you are not eligible for the special 3 hours off work.
  • 3. The employer gets to dictate which 3 hours you can leave.
  • 4. The employer must not reduce your pay because you leave for those three hours.
  • 5. You must use the time to actually vote.
  • UNANSWERED QUESTION: The law says the employer must give you 3 hours to vote, if the above conditions are met. But some employers might try to give you less than 3 hours off. Here’s how: Imagine that your normal workday ends at 5PM, leaving 2 hours of voting time remaining before the polls close at 7PM. Can your employer merely give you ONE hour off, ending your day at 4PM instead of 5PM, so as to allow you 3 hours in which to vote? This question has not been answered by the Missouri Appellate Courts. I think employers are obligated to give you 3 hours, because 115.639 is a penalty statute, calling for criminal prosecution for violation, and therefore must be “strictly construed”. Under a strict interpretation, since 115.639 does NOT say “up to 3 hours” – it says “3 hours” – 3 hours are required to be granted if you meet the conditions. I cannot find any Missouri Appellate Court cases regarding RSMo 115.639, and so it’s very possible my opinion will turn out to be wrong once such a court makes a ruling.

Here is the text of RSMo 115.639, as of October 2008:

Three hours off work to vote–interference by employer a class four offense.

115.639. 1. Any person entitled to vote at any election held within this state shall, on the day of such election, be entitled to absent himself from any services or employment in which he is then engaged or employed, for a period of three hours between the time of opening and the time of closing the polls for the purpose of voting, and any such absence for such purpose shall not be reason for the discharge of or the threat to discharge any such person from such services or employment; and such employee, if he votes, shall not, because of so absenting himself, be liable to any penalty or discipline, nor shall any deduction be made on account of such absence from his usual salary or wages; provided, however, that request shall be made for such leave of absence prior to the day of election, and provided further, that this section shall not apply to a voter on the day of election if there are three successive hours while the polls are open in which he is not in the service of his employer. The employer may specify any three hours between the time of opening and the time of closing the polls during which such employee may absent himself.

2. Any employer violating this section shall be deemed guilty of a class four election offense.

(L. 1977 H.B. 101 ยง 15.025)

Effective 1-1-78

Article written by | Tim Willoughby

***** END OF ARTICLE ***** Missouri Employment Law

Maintained by Attorney Phil Willoughby
Founded by Tim Willoughby, Esq. (1959-2013)

Phil is a Missouri employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Kansas and Missouri, and primarily takes cases in Saint Louis and Kansas City. He is a member of the Missouri Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association. Additionally, he has practiced in the United States Federal Courts of Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City. He has also practiced in the Kansas Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.

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