What Hawaii employers need to know ahead of election day

The following story originally appeared in Pacific Business News here: https://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/news/2018/10/30/what-hawaii-employers-need-to-know-ahead-of.html.

As the midterm elections near, Hawaii employers need to be aware of their employees’ rights when it comes to casting their votes on election day next week, according Ryan Sanada, director of legal and government affairs for the Hawaii Employers Council.

Under Hawaii law, employers are required to provide two hours of paid time off from work to their staff for the purposes of voting.

“This does not mean, however, that employers are required to give all employees two hours of paid leave on election day,” Sanada told Pacific Business News. “Rather, employers just need to make sure that employees have two consecutive hours on voting day within which they are able to vote. Therefore, the amount of leave that is given to an employee depends on how the employee’s work schedule coincides with the times that polls are open.”

Hawaii’s polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Sanada said employers should note that the two-hour period cannot include a regularly scheduled lunch or rest break, and if an employee fails to vote during that time away from work, the leave can be unpaid.

“Employers can require a voter’s receipt by an employee as proof of voting,” he added.

Nelson Befitel, chief counsel for Honolulu-based human resources management firm ProService, said failure to provide an employee with the time off could result in a penalty of up to $300.

“From a practical standpoint, hopefully the employee has already received notice of this law already, probably through a handbook,” Befitel added, on how businesses should prepare. “Besides that, I think a week before the election or days before the election, one of the leaders of the company should encourage them to vote.”

Befitel said ProService is seeing a greater trend this year in private companies giving employees an entire paid day off to vote.

“Regardless of the two consecutive hour rule, employers always have the option to extend that however they choose, whether it be four hours or the full day,” he told PBN. “In the public sector in Hawaii, state employees have always received the full day off to vote.”

Befitel said ProService offers its employees two floating holidays, so they have the option of using one for Election Day.

While businesses should encourage their employees to exercise their right to vote, Befitel said employers should refrain from imposing their political views on employees.

“Part of the mistakes a business could make is the company or the leaders of the company create political tension in the workplace,” he added. “That’s something you don’t want to do. It’s not good for workplace and it’s not good for your employees.”

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