Provincial Elections: The Polls Are Opening

September 24th, 2018

By Nancy Boyle, Partner, Lawyer and Geneviève Beaudin, Partner, Lawyer

The provincial election will be held in Québec on Monday, October 1, 2018. This polling day may involve additional obligations for Québec employers. Certain specific obligations that employers are required to meet in a provincial election are set out in the Election Act (the "Act").

Time for voting

First, employers have an obligation to ensure that every employee who is qualified to vote has four consecutive hours available to vote while the polling stations are open—between 9:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.—not including the time normally allowed for meals.

For example, if an employee’s shift ends before 4:00 p.m. or starts after 1:30 p.m., the employee already has the four consecutive hours available to vote and the employer therefore has no additional obligation towards that employee.

However, if an employee does not have the four consecutive hours required outside working hours, the Act provides that the employer must "grant the employee, at the time of day determined by the employer, the leave of absence required so that the employee may have four consecutive hours to vote". On that point, note that it is up to the employer to decide when during the day the employee will be granted said period of time.

In addition, the Act provides that no deduction of wages or penalty may be imposed by an employer on an employee to whom the employer must grant additional leave in order to enable the employee to exercise his or her right to vote.

Election officers

Moreover, the Act provides that employers have an obligation to accept written requests for leave made by employees who are election officers to enable them to perform their duties. However, the leave will be without pay.

Sanctions

Employees who believe that their right to be given four hours to vote has been violated may file a prohibited practice complaint with the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail.

The Act also provides for penalties for violations of the Act. For example, in the case of a legal person, an employer who violates an employee’s right to four consecutive hours to vote is liable to a fine ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 for a first offence and from $20,000 to $60,000 for a subsequent offence within ten years.

An employer who violates the right of an employee who is an election officer to be granted leave in order to perform his or her functions is liable to the same fine. This also applies to an employer who uses "his authority or his influence to incite any of his employees to refuse to become an election officer or to abandon that office after having accepted it".

Please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labour and Employment Law team if you have any questions.