October 24, 2012

Electing To Be Absent — Employees’ Election Day Rights in Minnesota

Posted in Election Day, Election Day, Leaves of Absence, Voting Rights tagged , , , , , , at 9:07 am by Tom Jacobson

With less than two weeks to go before election day, this is a good time for Minnesota employers and employees to think ahead about their election day rights.

Specifically, employees have a right to be absent from work for the time necessary to vote.  Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 204C.04) provides that:

Every employee who is eligible to vote in an election has the right to be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of that election, without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence. An employer or other person may not directly or indirectly refuse, abridge, or interfere with this right or any other election right of an employee.

Violating this law is a misdemeanor.

This right does not apply to all elections, but it does apply to any “regularly scheduled state primary or general election, an election to fill a vacancy in the office of United States senator or United States representative, or an election to fill a vacancy in the office of state senator or state representative.” So, it will apply this Nov. 6.

Another Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 204B.195) provides that employees who serve as election judges may, after giving their employer at least 20 days’ written notice, be absent from work to serve as election judges. The written request to be absent must be accompanied by a certification from the appointing authority stating the hourly compensation to be paid the employee for service as an election judge and the hours during which the employee will serve. Employers may reduce the salary or wages of employees serving as  election judges by the amount paid to the election judge by the appointing authority during the time the employee was absent from work. Also, employers may restrict the number of persons to be absent from work to serve as election judges to no more than 20 percent of the total work force at any single work site.

What you need to know:  By adhering to the statutes noted above, Minnesota employees and employers can protect the right to vote while minimizing any disruptions in the workplace. 

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2012 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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October 29, 2010

Employees’ election day rights expanded by 2010 change in Minnesota law

Posted in Election Day, Election Day, Leaves of Absence tagged , , at 4:37 pm by Tom Jacobson

With election day just around the corner, employers need to be mindful of a 2010 change which broadens the rights of Minnesota employees to miss work to vote.

Previously, employees had the right to be absent to vote during the morning of an election.  The “morning” limitation has been lifted, and employees may now be absent  for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of the election.  Employers are still prohibited from interfering with that right, and violation of this law is still a misdemeanor.

The law does not apply to every election, but it does apply to the November 2, 2010 mid-terms.

For more information on how this change affects an employer’s election day obligations, please contact me.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

August 31, 2010

Supervisor’s “Cool” FMLA comment lands FedEx in hot water

Posted in Family and Medical Leave Act, Leaves of Absence tagged , , , , , , at 7:32 am by Tom Jacobson

When FedEx employee Susan Murphy’s husband was hospitalized, she requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to help him through his serious health condition.  After she followed the company’s procedures, FedEx granted her request.

Sadly, Murphy’s husband died a short time later.  She became distraught and needed more time off.  Her supervisor, Jeff Karnes, reminded her that her FMLA leave had ended, but he also asked how much more time she would need before returning to work.  Murphy said thirty days, and Karnes responded, “Okay, cool, not a problem.  I’ll let HR know.”  Without following any of the company’s procedures for extending her FMLA leave, Murphy continued her leave.  However, the company later denied Murphy’s request and fired her.

Murphy sued FedEx, claiming that the company interfered with her FMLA rights.  One of the key issues in the case was whether or not it was appropriate for Murphy to continue her leave without following the company’s procedures.  Ultimately, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit concluded that under the circumstances, a reasonable jury could find that Murphy had notified FedEx that she was requesting FMLA leave and that  it was reasonable for her to rely on FedEx’s representation (that is, Karne’s “Cool” comment) that her leave was authorized.

In other words, by responding to Murphy’s request for thirty more days with “Okay, cool, not a problem.  I’ll let HR know,” Karnes essentially excused Murphy from following established procedure and instead granted her request.

The case illustrates how important it is for employers to clearly communicate their FMLA policies to their employees.  More importantly, it points out how crucial it is for employers to train their supervisors on how to respond to FMLA requests.  When a supervisor’s poor response leads an employee to reasonably believe that his or her FMLA leave request has been granted, the employee will probably be entitled to take the time off even if the company could have denied the request.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

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