Check Your State’s Voting Time Law
Most states have laws requiring employers to provide time off on Election Day for employees to vote. If you are not familiar with your state law, now is the time to check.
State laws vary in the specific requirements. Many states, like Wisconsin, require time off without pay. Other states, including New York, require the time to be paid but New York goes much further by requiring employers to allow registered voters sufficient time at the beginning or end of a shift to vote if the employee would not otherwise have four hours outside of work when polls are open. New York employers also must post signs (available here) at least ten days before an election regarding this right and employees must notify employers they intend to exercise this right between two and ten working days before the election. On the other hand, Florida does not even require employers to give time off (but some local ordinances impose such a requirement). At the farthest extreme are states like Connecticut that have no laws governing this issue at all.
Regardless of the law, it is generally a bad idea to deny an employee time off to vote, particularly where the employee makes a request in advance. Worse yet, an employer that fires an employee for taking time off to vote may subject itself to bad publicity and a wrongful discharge lawsuit based on a violation of public policy.
Employers should exercise similar caution with respect to employees who serve as election personnel. In Virginia, for example, an employer is guilty of a misdemeanor if it does not allow an unpaid leave to an “officer of election” or if it schedules that employee’s shift too close to polling times.
Finally, employers should keep in mind that these laws apply every year, not only when there is a presidential election. Primary elections may even be covered. For presidential elections, however, it helps to be especially proactive, since many more people will vote. The increased turnout affects both the number of employees who will want to take time off and the amount of time they will spend at the polls.
Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with state and federal employment laws including wage and hour laws. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or203.965.0560.