In preparation for Election Day, employers around the country will be faced with employee requests for time off to vote. Employers may also wrestle with the need to prevent workplace conflict related to political discussion. This summary provides guidance for employers with operations in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia on the rules for time off from work to vote and some practical steps to prevent political disputes in the workplace.
The states of New York, Maryland, Colorado, California, Texas, and Florida law each require employers to provide employees with time off to vote. Some of these states impose additional voting-related obligations on employers.
New York employees must be given enough time off from work that, when added to the employees' non-work time, gives the employees sufficient time to vote outside of working hours. Employers may require employees to take voting leave at the beginning or end of a work shift, and employees must notify their employer at least two, but not more than ten, days before Election Day of the need for leave. Employers must pay each employee for up to two hours of voting leave. However, an employee is not eligible for voting leave if he or she has four consecutive non-working hours in which to vote, either between the time the polls open and the beginning of the work shift, or between the end of the work shift and the time the polls close. At least ten working days before every election, employers must conspicuously post a notice regarding voting leave rights in their workplace, and the notice must remain posted until the close of polls on Election Day.
Maryland election law provides that employers must give employees up to two hours of paid time off to vote. Employees must provide proof of having voted using a state-prescribed form. Employees are ineligible for voting leave if they have at least two consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open.
Under Colorado law, employers must grant employees up to two hours of leave while the polls are open. Employers may specify the hours during which employees may leave to vote, but the hours must be at the beginning or end of the shift if the employees request voting leave at those times. Employees are not eligible for leave if they have three or more non-work hours between the time of opening and closing of the polls.
California employees are entitled to up to two hours in which to vote without loss of pay. Employees may take time off to vote at the beginning or end of a regular work shift, depending on which allows the most voting time and requires missing the least amount of work time. If, on the third working day before the election, an employee knows or has reason to know he or she will require leave to vote, that employee must provide at least two working days' notice before the election. Employers must pay for the first two hours of voting leave, with additional leave unpaid. Employees who have sufficient non-work time in which to vote may not take advantage of this policy. Finally, employers must conspicuously post a notice of their voting leave policy at least ten days before every statewide election.
Texas employers must permit employees to be absent from work for the purpose of voting, and must pay employees during the voting leave. Employees are not eligible for voting leave if they have two consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open to vote. Additionally, an employer may not threaten a Texas employee with a loss or reduction in wages or other employment benefit because the employee voted for or against a candidate or ballot measure, or because the employee refused to reveal how the he or she voted.
Florida has no voting leave statute covering private employers. But, pursuant to Florida law, Florida employers may not discharge or threaten to discharge any employee for voting or not voting in any election or for any candidate.
New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have not implemented voting leave laws for private employers. In those states, employers should follow any policies they may have implemented affording employees with time off to vote.
As the election nears and political discussions intensify, employers should consider using this time as an opportunity to remind employees of company harassment and discrimination policies. Starting from the top down, employers should reiterate expectations that the workplace will remain a respectful environment. Employers should consider providing informal trainings on preventing political disputes, such as proposing key phrases to mitigate heated discussions. Although employers should be cautious about attempting to limit campaign paraphernalia or political speech, especially as relating to labor or employment rights, employers may encourage employees to limit political discussions to non-work time. Employers should never pressure employees to vote in a particular way or support a certain candidate.