It's hard to believe that Election Day is just around the corner again! Despite the fact that the polls in many states are open for at least 12 hours (or more) on election days, and that some states have extended the polling over several days and/or have mail-in ballots for the election, many employers will still be asked by their employees if they can take time off to vote on election day. These employers may question whether they are required to give their employees time off to vote; and if they are, do they have to pay them for the time? And like most employer questions, the definitive answer to this one is . . . it depends!While there is no federal law that requires employers to provide employees with time off to vote, most states have laws that do. Some even require that employees be paid for the time they take off to vote. Time off to vote laws differ by state but typically address the following:
Additionally, some states have notification requirements to employees in their time off to vote laws. For example, California and New York have a specific requirement that employers must post a notice regarding voting time requirements at least 10 days before each election. New York employers that have not yet posted such a notice may find it at http://www.elections.ny.gov/nysboe/elections/attentionemployees.pdf. California employers may find a sample poster at https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/time-vote-notices/. Penalties for non-compliance also vary by state.
Employers must be proactive in understanding the requirements of the time off to vote law in their state to ensure compliance. They should also review their handbooks to make sure that any time off to vote policy therein is up-to-date and fully compliant with any applicable state and/or local laws. Employees who are eligible voters fulfill an important civic responsibility when they participate in the democratic process by voting. Employers too fulfill an important civic responsibility when they allow employees to take time off from work to vote when needed and/or necessary.
Needless to say, employers should adhere to the time off to vote laws in their state and/or to the policies set forth in their employee handbook. Some employers, however, have taken things a step further and are actively encouraging employees to get to the polls to vote. In 2018, a group of 200+ companies banded together to form a non-partisan coalition called "Time To Vote," in which they not only provided paid time off, but actively encouraged their employees to vote by giving employees access to and information about early voting or vote-by-mail options, offering paid time off on Election Day and/or making it a day without meetings. One company, Patagonia, went even further and shut down its entire operation on election day and provided their employees with a paid day off to vote!
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