Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Voting time isn't too costly for employers

Thanks to record early voting, many Nashville-area employers said they were spared a decrease in productivity that some feared would come with Tuesday's presidential election.

Fewer people than expected took the day off, and other companies gave employees enough time off during the workday to cast ballots.

"I don't think most of my employees were going to vote for John McCain like I did, but I wanted everybody to have the chance to vote that works for me," said Steve Richards, president of Richards & Richards, a records management company.

At the Bike Pedlar shop on West End Avenue, mechanic Adam Trapani joked: "We made the decision that (the boss) was going to give us two hours off to vote," adding that the boss was out of town this week anyway.

"I … left work at 10:45 a.m. to go vote and it took about 45 minutes to travel to the polls and back. Luckily for us, we were slow today," Trapani said.

Under Tennessee law, employers must give workers up to three hours to vote under most circumstances.

Kendell Poole, director of the governor's highway safety office in Tennessee's Department of Transportation, said he voted on his lunch hour.

"I was right back to work," he said.

"We've seen no disruption in our work flow whatsoever. Most of our employees took the opportunity to vote early."

Nationwide, some companies had braced for a drop in productivity amid predictions that nearly 65 percent of eligible voters would go to the polls to vote in the presidential race this year, the highest voter turnout in a century, according to the Brookings Institution.

At some Nashville workplaces, though, employers were glad Tuesday had finally come and gone.

Bobby Joslin, owner of Joslin and Son Signs, said the lengthy campaign caused a drag on productivity overall. And with employees of the Nashville-based company evenly split between Republican candidate McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, some workers debated differences during work hours.

"(Today), productivity will still be off because half of them are going to be happy and the other half are going to be sad," Joslin said.

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