State employees have a right to be paid when they take time off work to vote in an election, a state judge in Santa Fe ruled Wednesday in a case that could have consequences for workers in private businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. The decision resolves for now a lawsuit challenging a policy allowing New Mexico government workers to claim paid administrative leave while voting in most elections — but not local races. It was filed last month by two state employees just days before the first round of polling in Albuquerque’s mayoral race. The lawsuit argues that the workers effectively would be penalized for taking time from work to vote in the city election because they would lose either pay or vacation time. First Judicial District Court Judge David Thomson said the state government’s voting leave policy must extend to municipal elections.
But the case raised bigger questions beyond the state’s personnel policies, becoming instead a broader test of the rights of New Mexico voters and whether employees — in the private sector and the public sector — are guaranteed paid leave when taking time from work to vote.
New Mexico law says a voter “shall not be liable to any penalty” if he or she takes up to two hours off work to cast a ballot on an election day. But the law does not apply if an employee’s workday begins more than two hours after the polls open or ends three hours before the polls close.