The Right to Vote & Employment Issues

Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
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Ontario residents will be headed to the polls on June 7, 2018. All voters should be aware that every employer must ensure that every employee is allowed time off work to vote, as set out in the Election Act.

Three Hour Time Span

Every employee must have three consecutive hours off work to be able to vote.

This three hour time period must be available during the hours that the polls are open. Most of Ontario polls are open from 9 am to 9 pm. There are, however, certain electoral offices in the central time zone, in northwestern Ontario where voting hours are set from 8 am to 8 pm. Local polls will be 9 am to 9 pm.

If the employee’s hours are such that he or she does not have three consecutive hours free during this time period from 9 am to 9 pm, then the employer must provide time off work to ensure that the employee has access to these three consecutive hours to vote. This additional time off work must be paid.

As an example, if an employee works from 6 am to 2 pm, then he or she will have no need for extra time off. However, a person who is scheduled to work from 9 am to 10 pm will be allowed to leave work at 6 pm.

Employer’s Choice

The time allowed by the employer can be determined by the company to be the time period which best suits its functions. In the last example above, for instance, the company may request that the employee take off work three consecutive hours from 12 noon to 3 pm instead and return to work thereafter.

In addition, should a person wish to work as a returning officer or a poll official in the election, the employer must grant leave for this purpose. This time off work is, however, unpaid. Such time cannot be deducted from vacation time.

No Retaliation

The Election Act provides a general prohibition against any employer discipline against a person for exercising these rights. Unlike many similar statutes, there is no particular remedy set out where the employer has enacted unfair discipline. As discussed in a prior post, certain statutes such as the Environmental Protection Act provide a specific reinstatement process with a “reverse onus” in favour of the employee. This would mean that the employer must prove it is innocent of the allegation as opposed to the converse.

If the employee has been terminated due to insisting on his or her rights under the Act, a civil claim could be made for aggravated damages for unfair conduct leading to termination in addition to the usual termination claim.

Know Your Rights

If you have been treated unfairly due to your desire to vote, or need to know your rights in advance of voting day, get advice. Understand the law and then act.

If you have questions about such employment issues, contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We can guide you through the issues, help you understand your rights, and defend your position. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation