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Voting Rights Round-Up: Paid or Unpaid Time Off?

HR Matters E-Tips

Published Thursday, November 1, 2012
by Reprinted with permission from HR Matters

Question: Are we required to provide employees with time off to vote on November 6 during the workday? If so, does the time off have to be paid?

Answer:
Interestingly, while federal law does give eligible individuals the right to vote, it does not require you to give employees time off from work to cast their ballots. However, the laws of over half the states do require you to allow time off to vote. And, many of these states also require you to provide the voting time off with pay. So, you need to check your state’s requirements. Below is a summary of those state laws.

One of the states that requires time off with pay is California, where an employer must allow up to two hours with pay either at the beginning or end of the employee’s regular shift, if the employee does not have sufficient time outside working hours to vote at a statewide election. And in Colorado, an employer must provide employees up to two paid hours when polls are open to vote. However, the time is not required if the employee has at least three hours off when polls are open.

In Illinois, an employer must allow up to two hours off from work to vote between the time of opening and closing the polls and may not take any disciplinary action against the employee for doing so. New York requires employers to give up to two paid hours off from work to vote if the employee does not have “sufficient time” outside working hours to vote.

Some states that require time off for voting, but without pay include Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Many of the states that require leave for voting also require employees to give notice to their employers that they need time off to vote and allow employers to specify when the time may be taken. For example, both California and New York require employees to give at least two days’ notice of their need for leave.

Several states do not have any voting leave requirements, including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Note, too, that special pay rules apply for exempt employees. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations, exempt employees (those executive, administrative, professional, computer-related, and highly compensated individuals who are exempt from federal and state wage and hour laws) should be paid for any time off they take during their normal workday to vote. As a general rule, employers may not make deductions for partial day absences from exempt employee pay.

The right to vote creates the core of our free and democratic society, and every eligible citizen has a civic obligation to participate in this electoral process. Unlike jury duty and military service (two other extremely important and protected rights), voting takes relatively little time.

So, regardless of what your state law requires (or for that matter what your personal politics are), as an employer, you should encourage your employees to take the time to vote. One way to do this is to allow them to come in a little late or leave a little early (without docking their pay) so they can get to the polls in time. And, of course, you should also lead by example and make sure you vote.


Reprinted with permission from HR Matters, copyright Personnel Policy Service, Inc., Louisville, KY, all rights reserved, the HR Policy and Employment Law Compliance Experts for 40 years, 1-800-437-3735. Personnel Policy Service markets group legal service benefits and publishes HR information products, including the free weekly electronic newsletter, HR Matters E-Tips (http://www.ppspublishers.com/hrmetips.htm). This article is not intended as legal advice. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate legal or other professional advice.

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