State officials across the country are predicting record voter turnout on election day. Are you prepared?
Employers should review their policies to make sure employees are provided time off to vote as required by law, and that all other obligations of the business are met. There is no federal law requiring employers to provide leave to employees so they can vote, but there are at least 30 states with voting rights laws that require companies to provide time off for voting to employees who request it. Specifics vary state by state, but in each state, the rules apply to almost every type of workplace. Noncompliance can be costly. For example, in Arizona, Missouri and Kansas, supervisors can face fines of up to $2,500 if they block an employee from voting.
Currently, 22 states require employers to provide paid leave to their workers to vote: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. In other states, laws require employers to provide employees with time off to vote but do not require the time off to be paid.
In several states, employers must follow specific requirements in addition to pay, such as posting notifications. New York requires employers to post a notice at least 10 working days prior to an election day that includes the requirements of the state's voting leave law. The notice must be kept in a conspicuous place until the polls close on election day. California has a similar provision. In addition, New York, California and several other states allow companies to require that employees provide advance notice of the intent to take time off to vote, and to require that time off to vote be taken only at the beginning or end of an employee's shift. Several states also 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.
Most workers typically can vote before or after their normal work hours, but make sure your business is prepared to meet the needs of employees as required.
General Voting Leave Policy Guidance
Employers should make sure that they comply with applicable voter leave laws in the state(s) where they have employees, noting that rules vary. Progressive companies with the highest employee satisfaction ratings tend to go beyond what is legally required when it comes to policies such as voting leave.
As a best practice, employers operating in states with no specific voter leave rules should generally allow up to two hours of paid time to vote for employees with insufficient time to do so during their regular workday.
Multi-state employers can implement a general voting policy for all employees that complies with the laws in every state where the company operates, or establish specific time-off-to-vote policies for each state.
Employers should determine ahead of time whether they need to stagger shifts or account for individuals using their voting leave so that appropriate staffing levels are maintained while still adhering to state laws. In most states, employers can designate the time of day when employees can be absent to vote during the workday. The employee is generally required to give advance notice of the need for leave.
All employers must be mindful to be neutral and consistent when granting time off to vote to avoid claims of discrimination or voter disenfranchisement.