January 26, 2011
By By JASON TRAHAN
The Dallas Morning News
Joyce Martin was in a bind.
She had not voted early in the 2008 presidential elections, and on Election Day, she risked being late for work in Irving if she voted in Grand Prairie in the morning.
She went to work, and there wasn't enough time to slip away and vote during lunch.
Her boss at Clinical Pathology Laboratories, where she worked as a phlebotomist, would not let her leave early because they were short-handed. But she did anyway, locking up 15 minutes before closing time at 5:30 p.m. and leaving to go cast her ballot.
Two days later, she was fired.
Martin filed a lawsuit in March alleging she was wrongfully fired for voting, which the lab denies. Dallas County Civil Court Judge Lorraine Raggio dismissed the case in August, agreeing with the lab's attorneys, who argued that even if Martin's claim were accurate, Texas law protects the rights of employers to fire employees in many cases without having to provide a reason. . .
The right to vote is guaranteed in both the federal and state constitutions.
Martin's case may reach the Texas Supreme Court, which could decide to let people statewide sue for being fired for voting. But that's unlikely, said D. Aaron Lacy, an associate professor of employment law at Southern Methodist University.
In Martin's case, it is not clear that the lab violated the misdemeanor election statute on the books, because no complaint was filed. Also, Martin conceivably could have voted early, before Election Day, he said, leaving open the question of her former employer's liability.
"It makes it difficult to craft a decision that's not convoluted based on the facts of the case," he said.
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