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EMPLOYMENT LAWS IN NEW YORK YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW, BUT SHOULD! New York Employers Must Give Employees Three Hours of Paid Leave to Vote on Election Day

Part Three in a Five Part Series originally published in the Rockland County Business Journal on November 4, 2019

New York State has long required employers to provide up to two hours of paid leave to employees who wish to exercise their right to vote.  However, did you know the 2019-2020 state budget included a new version of this law?  The amendment now allows employees up to three hours of paid leave to go to the polls on Election Day.  While this is not a completely new law, it does increase the amount of voting leave an employee is entitled to by 50%.  So, here’s what you need to know: 

The Old Rule

Under the old rule, employers had to give registered voters up to two hours of paid time leave if the employee did not have at least four consecutive hours of access to the polls, e.g., between the time the polls opened and the start of their shift, or between the end of their shift and the closing of the polls.

If employees did not have at least four consecutive hours of access to the polls, they could take paid time off.  However, employers never had to pay any employee for more than two hours of leave.

The New Rule

The new rule, in effect since April of this year, requires New York employers to provide employees who are registered to vote with up to three hours paid leave to vote, taken either at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift. Employees seeking time off to vote must notify their employer at least two working days before Election Day.

Additionally, the “four consecutive hours” rule has been thrown out. This means all employees are entitled to up to three hours of paid voting leave, regardless of whether they have time to vote outside of their working hours. Refusal to grant an employee’s timely request for voting leave may constitute a criminal misdemeanor.

Notice Requirements

As a reminder, New York also requires employers to post notice advising employees of their right to voting leave under N.Y. Election Law §3-110 in a conspicuous place in your workplace for at least 10 working days prior to Election Day.  A compliant notice is usually available on the New York State Board of Elections’ webpage.

The Take Away

This is just one of those subtle (but important) changes to current law that employers traditionally don’t notice.  Employers – prepare accordingly. Review your workplace policies and procedures on voting leave to ensure they have the correct information.  Train your supervisors on this new law and make sure HR personnel are prepared come Election Day.  Lastly, when posting the required notice, make sure it is an updated version reflecting this year’s changes. 

And remember – the new rule not only increases the amount of paid leave an employee may receive; it also increases the number of employees who are eligible for the leave. This could mean a significant effect on your staffing levels on Election Day, not to mention the effect it could have on your bottom line!