12 Oct Time Off for Voting: A Requirement?
When it comes to time off for voting, state laws apply — for local and national elections. In some states, the law is so specific as to state the amount of time that workers must be allowed off to vote and whether time off needs to be paid. Some states require employers to give time off only if you will not have enough time to vote before or after work, depending on when polls are open. Most states prevent an employer from firing or disciplining employees who take time off to vote.
In some states, if you don’t vote with the time you took off for that purpose, employers can dock your pay for the hours off — so save your proof of voting just in case you’re questioned later.
In general, it’s a good policy for employees to give their employers a head’s-up if they expect to take off time — and also a good policy for employers to be flexible. In some jurisdictions, advance notice may be required, and employers may need to arrange for coverage.
What about employees who may want to work at the polls on Election Day — can your employer stop you from doing that? The time various laws grant is generally limited to a few hours rather than an entire day, but typically, employers allow workers to take a vacation day or personal day for such service.
California is one state that requires employers to post something about how to take advantage of the legal right to time off to vote. Of course, you may be working from home — so this notice would have to be emailed or discussed during a Zoom meeting. New York and Colorado both require up to two paid hours, with some caveats. In both those states, a company that violates the time-off-to-vote law could lose its corporate charter. In Arizona, Missouri and Kansas, supervisors face fines of up to $2,500 if they prevent someone from voting, with Arizona also fining the company itself as much as $20,000.
The Society for Human Resource Management has recommended that, absent any other state law, businesses give employees two hours of paid time off to vote if there is not ample time to vote outside their work hours. In general, experts advise being as flexible as possible. SHRM quotes Bryan Stillwagon, an attorney with Sherman & Howard in Atlanta: “Companies with the happiest and most-engaged employees recognize that positive morale comes from doing more than what is required.”
Keep in mind that state rules can change quickly, particularly this year, when the pandemic is wreaking havoc on traditional voting practices. Take a look at the Workplace Fairness site for more information about your state laws on voting rights and time off to vote.