Allowing Your Employees Time Off to Vote

While many of your employees may have taken advantage of early voting opportunities, others may be waiting until the official election day on Tuesday to cast their votes.

Federal law does not address time off to vote for employees, however state laws do, and as with many other areas of employment law, the rules vary from state to state.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the states’ laws:

  • Many states say that employees are only entitled to time off if the polls are not open long enough – before or after – an employee’s shift for that person to vote on his or her own time.
  • Other states, such as Texas, are more specific, stipulating that employees are entitled to paid time off to vote if the polls are not open for at least two hours before or after the employees’ work shifts.
  • In states such as Tennessee and Nevada, employees must ask for time off in advance, no later than the day before the election. Tennessee specifies that leave must be requested by the day before the election by noon. Others, like New York do the same, but the request must be made at least two and no more than 10 days before the election.
  • Kentucky allows up to a generous four hours for voting, though the time is unpaid.
  • North Dakota encourages employers to allow time off to vote, but this is voluntary.
  • Where advance permission is required, the requests may have to be in writing.
  • And where time off to vote is mandatory, generally employers cannot count the employee’s lunch hour as part of that time off.
  • Then there are states that have paid-time-off laws. Minnesota has a fairly new “Time Off to Vote” law which gives workers the right to take enough time to leave work, go to the polling place and cast their votes and return to work. The law states that this can happen any time during the work day, subject to employer approval. Likewise in California if an employee’s shift is such that there is not time to get to the poll before or after the shift, the employee can have up to two hours of paid time off to vote, however, the employer must be given at least two days advance notice.