In anticipation of Election Day 2014 (Tuesday, November 4), employers should review their policies and practices to ensure workers are provided time off to vote as required by applicable law and all other obligations of the business are met.
Some states have no such time-off requirements, while others require employers to provide some or all employees with time off to vote and impose civil or criminal penalties for non-compliance.
State laws also vary as to the amount of notice, if any, employees must provide to an employer of the employee’s intention to take time off to vote, whether employers can designate the hours taken off to vote and whether such time must be paid. Some jurisdictions even require postings to advise employees of their rights to take leave to vote. Additionally, some jurisdictions require employers to provide employees time off to act as election officials or to serve in an elected office.
To ensure they properly address employee requests for time off while minimizing disruptions in the workplace, employers should review their election day practices.
The following is a sample of state requirements regarding voting time off:
California – California Elec. Code § 14000 provides that an employee is entitled to an amount of leave time that, when added to the voting time available to him or her outside of working hours, will enable him or her to vote. The employee is excluded if he or she has sufficient nonworking time to vote.
Notice: The employee must provide notice two (2) working days in advance of the election if, on the third working day prior to the election, the employee knows or has reason to believe he or she will need time off in order to vote.
Hours: Time must be taken at the beginning or end of the work shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from work, unless otherwise mutually agreed.
Paid: No more than two (2) hours of the time taken off for voting shall be without loss of pay.
Colorado – Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute §1-7-102, eligible voters are entitled to be absent from work for up to two (2) hours for the purpose of voting on Election Day unless the employee has three (3) or more nonworking hours to vote while the polls are open.
Hours: The employer may specify the hours of absence, but the hours must be at the beginning or end of the work shift, if the employee so requests.
Paid: No more than two (2) hours.
Illinois – 10 Illinois Comp. Statutes § 5/17-15 entitles employees who do not have two (2) consecutive non-working hours to vote while the polls are open to take up to two (2) hours off to vote when the polls are open.
Notice: The employee must provide notice prior to Election Day.
Hours: The employer may designate the hours.
Paid: Employees must be paid for time taken during working hours.
Maryland – Maryland Election Law Code §10-315 states that every employer in the state must allow employees who claim to be registered voters to be absent from work for up to two (2) hours on Election Day to vote if the employee does not have two (2) consecutive non-working hours to vote while the polls are open.
Paid: Employees must be paid for the up to two (2) hours of absence.
Proof: Employees must provide proof of voting or attempt to vote on a form prescribed by the State Board.
New York – New York Election Law § 3-110 states that an employee is entitled to a sufficient amount of leave time that, when added to his or her available time outside of working hours, will enable him or her to vote. Four (4) hours is considered sufficient time. An employee is excluded from leave if he or she has four (4) consecutive hours in which to vote, either between the opening of the polls and the beginning of his or her work shift or the end of his or her work shift and the close of the polls.
Notice: The employee must provide notice of leave at least two (2), but not more than ten (10), days prior to the election.
Hours: The employer may specify the hours. Leave must be given at the beginning or end of the work shift, as the employer may designate, unless otherwise agreed.
Paid: Not more than two (2) hours may be without loss of pay.
Wisconsin – Under Wis. Stat. § 6.76, an employee is entitled to three (3) successive hours to vote.
Notice: The employee shall give notice of the intended absence before election day.
Hours: The employer may specify the hours.
Paid: Leave need not be paid.
Of course, in addition to state law, local law should be consulted.