Q: Now that the election is finally here, am I required to give employees time off to vote?
The answer to that question depends on which state you are in. There is no federal law that requires employers to give time off to vote, but many states do have such laws. While the laws vary by state, in general, these kinds of laws provide that employers must provide time off to vote if employees do not have sufficient time to vote outside of working hours. State laws vary as to whether the time is paid or unpaid, how much time must be given, and how much time is “sufficient” to vote outside of working hours. Many states provide that employees are only entitled to voting leave if they provide advance notice to the employer.
In New York, for example, employers are required to provide up to two hours of paid voting leave to employees who are registered voters and who do not have sufficient time outside of work hours to vote, so long as eligible employees notify their employer of the need for voting leave at least two workdays before election day. If employees have four consecutive hours between the opening of the polls and the start of their work shift, or between the end of their work shift and the closing of the polls, that is considered sufficient time to vote, and leave does not need to be provided. Employers can require that the leave be taken at the beginning or end of a work shift. New York is the only state that requires employers to post a notice of employees’ voting leave rights. But employers in New York must get these notices posted now, as the rules require that the notice be posted at least 10 workdays before every election and remain posted until the polls close on election day.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey do not have voting leave laws, but both states have similar laws providing that employers may not interfere with an employee’s right to vote, or use threats or intimidation to influence an employee’s vote for a particular candidate. New Jersey also provides that, within 90 days of an election, employers may not exhibit any notice in the workplace that contain any information that could be construed as a threat intended to influence employees’ political opinions or actions.
Finally, it is important to note that while this year’s Presidential election is receiving the most attention, state voting leave laws also apply to other types of elections (general, special and primary, and ballot proposals, among others, depending on the state).