Election Day is November 3, 2020, and early voting has already begun in Florida. The purpose of this blog entry is to inform employers and employees alike of some basic tenets of Florida election and voting law.
It may be helpful to begin with one type of law that is not on the books in Florida: mandatory voting leave. In more than thirty states, employees may invoke a statutory right to some form of protected voting leave – even if it is unpaid leave and the employee must vote during a window of time designated by the employer. Under Florida law, however, an employer is not required to grant any leave to an employee so he or she may vote. By extension, a Florida employer may not be penalized for refusing to allow an employee to vote during work time.
There are, however, potential pitfalls for employers when it comes to election season. One is Section 104.081 of the Florida Statutes, which prohibits an employer from firing or threatening to fire an employee “for voting or not voting in any election, state, county, or municipal, for any candidate or measure submitted to a vote of the people.” Any person who violates the law is guilty of a third-degree felony, and is therefore subject to up to five years of imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, and enhanced penalties for habitual offenders. All Florida employers must comply with the statute, regardless of the number of employees they have.
More generally, Floridians are protected by — and must comply with — Section 104.0615 of the Florida Statutes (the “Voter Protection Act”). Under this law, a person may not use force, violence, intimidation, or coercion, or threaten any of the foregoing, to prompt or compel an individual to “(a) vote or refrain from voting; (b) vote or refrain from voting for any particular individual or ballot measure; (c) refrain from registering to vote; or (d) refrain from acting as a legally authorized election official or poll watcher.” The Voter Protection Act also prohibits destruction of voter registration forms and ballots, as well as knowingly using false information to (a) challenge an individual’s right to vote or (b) prevent an individual from voting or registering. Any person who violates the Voter Protection Act is guilty of a third-degree felony, and is subject to the penalties listed above.
Whether you are an employee or an employer, if you have any questions that our firm can help you with, please feel free to call us and request a consultation.