Paid Time Off For Voting? Be Sure You Know the Law
Provisions exist across many states that mandate time off for voting in national or state elections. In fact, the majority of states now have legislation requiring employers to provide time off to vote, and in some states, this time must be paid.
Currently, 23 states require employers to provide paid leave to their workers to vote: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho (public sector employees), Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
In New York and California, employers must follow specific requirements in addition to pay. New York requires employers to post a notice that includes the requirements under the state's voting leave law, at least 10 working days prior to an election day. The notice must be kept in place until the polls close on election day.
California's provision is similar to New York and, like many other states, permits employers to require that employees provide advance notice when they will need time off in order to vote, and also to require that time off to vote be taken only at the beginning or end of an employee's shift. Both New York and California cap the amount of paid time that must be provided to employees to vote at two hours, though employers may choose to offer additional paid time.
Other states require that employers provide employees with time off to vote but do not require the time off to be paid. These states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts (for employees in manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishments), Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. In New Mexico, the law adds that employees must be provided with time to vote and employers may not impose a "penalty" for using this time.
Most states that require employers to provide time off to vote do not include employees who have at least two consecutive hours on election day when they are not scheduled for work and polls are open. This figure is three hours in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia, and four hours in New York.
Although the amount and form of the notice varies by state, employees are generally required to provide notice to their employers prior to Election Day if they need to utilize voting leave in order to cast their ballot. As with many regulatory areas, the voting leave landscape is changing, and employers must be mindful of changes that may impact them and their workforce, especially those companies with employees residing in multiple states.