by Laura Pokrzywa
As the 2016 presidential race continues, political ads are doubling down and public discussions are ramping up. Though the polls are indicating an electorate that seems less than enthusiastic about their choices, Election Day looms none-the-less. No doubt your employees will be among the throngs of citizens going to the polls on Tuesday, November 8.
Are you required to excuse them from their regular work schedule so they can vote? If so, how much time do you have to allow? If they do request time away from work for visiting their polling place, should it be paid or unpaid time off?
The answers to these questions will not be found in any federal law, as no federal law exists that would require you to allow an employee to leave work to participate in an election. However, your state’s laws may be more demanding. More than half of our 50 states have established statutes detailing certain requirements for voting leave.
Twenty-one states require varying amounts of paid voting leave. Some of these states require employers to allow as much as three hours for voting if the employee does not have sufficient non-work hours to vote. Some simply require the employer allow “reasonable time”, whether paid or unpaid. Pennsylvania and Ohio are among the 20 states that have no laws governing voting leave. In these states it is up to the employer to establish its own policy regarding time off, paid or unpaid, for voting privileges.
Here is a quick breakdown of the states’ requirements:
States with NO statutes governing voting leave:
Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.
States with statutes that include PAID time off to vote:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming.
States with statutes that require voting leave, but allow it to be UNPAID:
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin.
In addition to voting leave laws, some states require employers to allow election officials special leave to fulfill their duties on Election Day. Given all the variations and details, it is best to contact your state’s labor department to determine your legal responsibility to your employees regarding voting leave. At least that is one thing you can be sure to get right on November 8.
If you have any questions about Voting Leave or other state-required leaves, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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