The November election is next week, and as employees prepare to head to the polls, employers  often wonder whether they’re required to provide time off for voting.

As you are already aware, there’s a presidential election coming up on Nov. 3. As employees prepare to head to the polls, employers often wonder whether they are required to give employees time off in order to vote.

Federal law does not require employers to give employees time off work to vote. However, many states offer voting leave to employees in certain circumstances. These state laws vary with respect to the amount of time the employer must provide, whether the time off is compensable, and when the time off may be scheduled. Many laws prohibit employers from penalizing employees who take time off to vote.

Examples and Additional Considerations
Consider the following examples:

  • In California, an employee must be given as much time off from work as will, when added to the time available outside working hours, enable the employee to vote, if the employee does not have sufficient time to vote outside regular working hours. In addition, the employer must post a notice at least 10 days before the election explaining the law.
  • In Minnesota, “every employee who is eligible to vote in an election has the right to be absent from work for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of that election, without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence.” Minnesota’s Secretary of State has taken the position that an “employer cannot require [the employee] to use personal leave or vacation time.”
  • Nevada law defines “sufficient time to vote” based on the distance between the voter’s place of employment and the designated polling place. Depending on the distance, employees get between one and three hours of paid leave if it would be difficult to get to the polls during nonworking hours.
  • In Georgia, employees who provide reasonable notice are entitled to two hours of leave to vote in “any municipal, county, state, or federal political party primary or election for which such employee is qualified and registered to vote.”
  • In Wyoming, employees are entitled to one hour of paid voting leave if the employee has less than three consecutive nonworking hours to vote.

This is not an exhaustive list and please be sure to check state law, as well as consulting with a qualified labor and employment attorney, if you have any questions about the law in your state. In addition, given the current COVID-19 pandemic, employers may also want to consider providing information to employees about registering to vote by mail.

Employers should avoid saying anything that could be construed as discouraging or penalizing employees from attending the polls to vote on Election Day. This is because, even if the statements are designed to protect employees from COVID-19 exposure, they could be construed as violating certain states’ voting-leave laws.

Bottom Line
As Election Day approaches, employers should take a moment to review their state’s voting-leave requirements. Remember, though, nothing prevents an employer from agreeing to do more than what the law requires. Thus, an employer’s policy or collective bargaining agreement may permit employees to take time off to vote and/or to pay for the time, even if it is not required by state law.