by Karen R. Harned
Q. Today I had an employee ask if she could take time off to vote on Election Day. What are my obligations as an employer to grant her request for leave?
As good employers, you want your employees to be active in the community and part of that activism involves voting. Activating employees as members of the small business community can mean taking simple steps like making sure they are all registered to vote, encouraging them to vote and ensuring that they understand which candidates support your business and industry.
When it comes to giving time off to vote, there are no federal laws that require you to do so. However, a majority of states have laws that require employers to give employees time off to vote, particularly in situations where an employee’s work hours do not permit sufficient time to vote during poll hours. Remember that flexibility can be the key when it comes to encouraging employees to vote. While your state law may not mandate paid time off, there’s nothing that prohibits you from implementing a voting policy that offers your employees greater flexibility or privileges than what the law requires.
What do most state voting laws require? In many states, the following rules generally apply:
- If polls are open two or three hours before or after employees’ normal work hours, the employer is not obligated to provide time off to vote.
- Employers may require that employees provide written requests for time off to vote.
- Employers may designate when time off will be permitted for employees to vote.
- Employers may not include lunch periods as part of the voting time off permitted.
- Employees may be required to provide proof they voted to receive paid leave.
- Employees may not be disciplined or retaliated against for taking time off to vote.
Does Your State Require Time Off To Vote?See the list below to determine what, if any, requirement your state maintains regarding voting leave:
About the author: Karen R. Harned serves as executive director of the NFIB Legal Foundation. Harned has strong experience fighting for small business. As an associate at Olsson, Frank and Weeda, P.C., she specialized in food and drug law and represented several small businesses and their trade associations before Congress and federal agencies. She also worked as an assistant press secretary for former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (Okla.).
Harned received her B.A. from the University of Oklahoma in 1989 and her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School in 1995. Harned is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia.