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Online Resource: Paid Time Off to Vote - It's the Law in Minnesota

November 1, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - In the United States, it's assumed that citizens have the right to vote. But what about taking time off from work to exercise that right? In Minnesota, every eligible worker is allowed by law to get paid time off to vote, but that's not true everywhere.

Anne Janks is director of "CanMyBossDoThat?", an online resource for worker rights that, just in time for the election, has released state-by-state summaries of laws that pertain to taking time off to vote.

"I find it kind of surprising that, in a democracy, people's ability to get to the polls is not better protected. But some states do have laws mandating that workers get time off to vote and in some states the time off is even paid."

Janks says the site has also just added information on which states protect workers from retaliation based on how they vote or because of political activity outside of work.

"There was a famous case that happened in 2004, where a woman in Alabama was fired because her employer saw her car had a John Kerry bumper sticker on it, and he said no one was going to work for him who supported John Kerry, and he fired her."

While Minnesota has a law providing limited worker protection for "lawful consumable products" - including tobacco, alcohol, and food - there is not currently a law protecting workers who engage in political or advocacy activities.

Janks says part of the challenge employees face is that worker rights and employment laws differ by state, industry, size of employer - and the enforcement of each law is different. That's why the CanMyBossDoThat? website was started in 2009 by Interfaith Worker Justice.

"It's a reference with information that's specific enough that an individual worker in a certain situation should be able to look up, 'Is there a law in my state about this issue? Am I covered, is my industry covered, is my employer covered? Do I work enough hours to be covered by that particular law?'"

She says the site is updated continually, and they are now able to address individual worker questions via e-mail support.

Janks says that in general Minnesota has pretty good employment laws compared to other states, and adds that the state's enforcement agencies are also fairly good. She encourages anyone with problems at work to contact the Minnesota Department of Labor.

The website is canmybossdothat.com




Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN