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Employee Time Off for Voting

Know Your Employees’ Voting Rights

You should be prepared for employees to exercise their right to vote, and you need to know your obligations to support this right. Find out below what federal and state laws require employers to do.

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Most States Require Time Off for Voting

Is it a federal law that employees get paid time off work to vote? Interestingly, while federal law does give eligible individuals the right to vote, it does not require you to give employees time off from work to cast their ballots. However, the laws of over half the states do require you to allow time off to vote. In addition, many of these states also require you to provide the voting time off with pay.

(Download free Short-Term Absences model policy, including HR best practices and legal background.)

Some states that require both time off for voting and pay include:

California: An employer must allow up to two hours with pay either at the beginning or end of the employee’s regular shift, if the employee does not have sufficient time outside working hours to vote at a statewide election. (See Cal. Elec. Code §§14000 - 14003.)

Colorado: An employer must provide employees up to two paid hours when polls are open to vote. However, the time is not required if the employee has at least three hours off when polls are open. (See Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-7-102.)

Illinois: An employer must allow up to two hours off from work to vote between the time of opening and closing the polls and may not take any disciplinary action against the employee for doing so. The law specifically prohibits a penalty such as a reduction in compensation for the absence. (See 10 ILCS 5/17-15.)

New York: An employer must give up to two paid hours off from work to vote if the employee does not have sufficient time outside working hours to vote. “Sufficient time” is defined as four consecutive hours either between the opening of the polls and the beginning of the employee’s working shift, or between the end of his working shift and the closing of the polls. (See N.Y. Elec. Law §3-110.)

Some states that require time off for voting, but without pay include:

Kentucky: Employees may take reasonable time off to vote, but may be disciplined if they do not actually vote. (See Ky. Rev. Stat. §118.035.)

Massachusetts: Employees who work in manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishments must be allowed to take time-off during the first two hours after the polls open, if the employees apply for this voting leave. (See Mass. Gen. Laws. Ann. Ch. 149, §178.)

Ohio: An employer may not terminate or threaten to terminate an employee for taking a reasonable amount of time to vote on Election Day. (See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §3599.06.)

Wisconsin: Employees may take up to three hours unpaid leave to vote, and the employer may designate the time of day for the absence. (See Wisc. Stat. §6.76(1).)

Many of the states that require leave for voting also require employees to give notice to their employers that they need time off to vote and allow employers to specify when the time may be taken. For example, both California and New York require employees to give at least two days notice of their need for leave.

Some of the states that do not have any voting leave requirements include Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

(Download free Short-Term Absences model policy, including HR best practices and legal background.)

Note, too, that special pay rules apply for exempt employees. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations, exempt employees (those executive, administrative, professional, computer-related, and highly compensated individuals who are exempt from federal and state wage and hour laws) should be paid for any time off they take during their normal workday to vote. As a general rule, employers may not make deductions for partial day absences from exempt employee pay.

Consider Giving Employees Paid Time Off for Voting

The right to vote creates the core of our free and democratic society, and every eligible citizen has a civic obligation to participate in this electoral process. Unlike jury duty and military service (two other extremely important and protected rights), voting takes relatively little time.

So, regardless of what your state law requires (or for that matter what your personal politics are), as an employer, you should encourage your employees to take the time to vote. One way to do this is to allow them to come in a little late or leave a little early (without docking their pay) so they can get to the polls in time. And, or course, you should also lead by example and make sure you vote.

Regards,

Robin Thomas, J.D.
Personnel Policy Service, Inc.

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