As the election draws near, some choose to mail-in their ballot, some choose to vote early, and some choose to vote in-person on election day. For those who choose to vote in-person on election day, it’s important to know about your rights to vote, and that includes ARS 16-402.

To make these rights more clear, AZ Big Media sat down with John J. Balitis, attorney and the chair of labor and employment at Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, P.L.C., so he could help us understand exactly what ARS 16-402 permits for Arizonans.

AZ Big Media: What does ARS 16-402 give Arizonans the right to?

John J. Balitis practices in the labor and employment area for Jennings Strouss.

John J. Balitis: So it’s a very really simple law. It basically provides that workers have the right to three consecutive hours before or after a work shift within which to vote. And this is between the time that the polls open, and the time that the shift starts, or the time that the shift ends and the time that the polls close. So, if in those scenarios there are less than three consecutive hours then the employer has the obligation to make up that time so that it equals three consecutive hours with paid time off.

ABM: What would be an example for this?

JJB: For example, if the polls open at 7 a.m. and the worker’s shift starts at 9 a.m., that worker only has two consecutive hours within which to vote. So in that scenario the employer would have to give the worker an additional one hour of paid time off so that the worker has three consecutive hours within which to vote. In that scenario, the worker then would be able to come in at 10 o’clock – an hour later – and then get paid for that hour. So that the worker had three consecutive hours in the morning to vote.

And the same sort of analysis and thought process works for the afternoon or the end of the shift. If either of those two periods either before the shift or after the shift affords the worker three hours, the employer then can just basically instruct the worker to vote during that three hour time period. For example, if there’s only two hours available in the morning but there’s three full hours available at the end of the day after the shift, before the polls close, that employer is not obligated to provide any additional time because there’s three consecutive hours at the end of the day.

ABM: What if an employer doesn’t follow the statute and refuses to give the paid time off?

JJB: The penalty is a class two misdemeanor. That’s what the statute provides. It doesn’t talk about getting a private cause of action to the worker to sue the business or anything. It just provides that the employer will commit a class two misdemeanor if it doesn’t provide the required time off.

ABM: If an employer wanted to give people time off who didn’t have the three consecutive hours, but they wanted to give the time off unpaid, then that would be breaking the statute?

JJB: That’s not lawful. That’s a misdemeanor.

ABM: What does the employee have to do to exercise this right?

JJB: If a worker wants to exercise this right, he or she has to let the employer know at least a day in advance of the election.

ABM: Why don’t more people know about this law?

JJB: What’s interesting about it, compared to a lot of other laws that relate to the employment relationship, is that it doesn’t have any notification or posting requirements embedded in it. So in other words, employers don’t have an obligation to tell their workforce about the law. Whereas, in comparison, there are many laws that require employers to post them in break rooms and around the workplace so that employees can read about them and understand what their rights are. This law doesn’t have any component like that, so as a consequence a lot of people don’t necessarily know about it. And what compounds this is that it only comes up very infrequently. It only comes up in an election cycle.

Election day is November 3, and in Arizona the polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Make sure you plan ahead, let your employer know if you need to exercise this right and vote!