Election Alert: Laws Requiring Employee Time Off to Vote

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[author: Karla E. Sanchez]

As Election Day approaches, employers are reminded that most states have requirements that an employee be given time off to vote, often with pay, subject to the individual's hours of work and the times when the polls are open.  In some states, employers are required to post notices in advance of an election, advising employees of their rights.  Violation of many of these statues is a misdemeanor punishable by fine.

The following is a listing of the most notable state law requirements.  Unless otherwise indicated, these laws apply only to those employees who are eligible to vote.  Should you have a question about these laws, please contact one of the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Law Department (listed at the end of the Advisory).

Alabama:  Employers are required to give employees time off to vote unless the employee's work shift commences at least two hours after the polls open or ends at least one hour before the polls close.  If an employee requires time off for voting, the employee must give the employer "reasonable notice."  The employer is not required to grant more than a one hour absence, and the employer may designate the time when employees may leave work to vote.  Time off for voting is not required to be paid.  Ala. Code § 17-1-5. 

Alaska:  Employers are required to give an employee as much time off "as will enable voting," unless the polls are open for two non-working hours before or after the employee's work shift.  Time off for voting must be paid.  Alaska Stat. § 15.15.100. 

Arizona:  Employers must allow employees up to three hours of time off for voting unless the polls are open three hours before or after the employee's work shift.  The total time off allowed is three hours, less the time the polls are open before or after work.  The employee is required to apply for leave before the day of the election and the employer may specify the hours when the employee may be absent.  Time off for voting must be paid.  Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 16-402.

Arkansas:  Employers are required to "schedule the work hours of employees on election days so that each employee will have an opportunity" to vote.  Employers are not required to grant paid time off.   Ark. Code Ann. § 7-1-102. 

California:  If an employee does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote, the employer must provide enough time off that when added to time available outside of working hours, the employee will be able to vote.  Unless otherwise agreed, the time off must be at the beginning or end of a shift, whichever allows the most free time to vote and the least time off from work.  Employees who three working days before the election have reason to believe that time off will be necessary, must give the employer notice two business days before the election.  Up to two hours off must be paid.  Employers must post, in a conspicuous place, a notice setting forth these provisions no less than ten days before the election.  Cal. Elec. Code §§ 14000-14001.

Colorado:  Employers are required to give an employee two hours off to vote unless the employee has three consecutive non-working hours available for voting at the polls.  The employee is to be paid for working time he or she is required to miss in order to vote.  The employee must apply for the leave before the day of the election and the employer may specify the hours that the employee may be absent, provided, however, that the hours shall be at the beginning or end of a shift if the employee so requests.  Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-7-102.

Florida: There is no state law regarding time off to vote, but it is unlawful to discharge or threaten to discharge an employee for voting.  Fl. Stat. Ann. §104.081.

Georgia:  Employers must give an employee up to two hours off to vote, unless the polls are open for two consecutive hours before or after the employee's work shift.  The employer may specify the time when employees may be absent.  Employers are not required to provide paid time off to vote.  Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-404.

Hawaii:  Employers are required to give an employee two consecutive hours off for voting unless the polls are open for two consecutive hours before or after the employee's work shift.  Time off for voting must be paid if the employee presents proof of having voted.  If an employee takes time off but fails to vote, the employer may make appropriate deductions in pay.  Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-95.

Idaho: There is no state law regarding time off to vote, but employers cannot attempt to influence an employee's vote by threatening to discharge or discharging the employee.  Id. Code §18-2319.

Illinois:  Employers must give an employee up to two hours of time off in order to vote unless the polls are open two hours before or after the employee's shift.  Employees must request the leave prior to the day of the election.  The employer may specify the hours when an employee may be absent.  Time off for voting must be paid.  10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/17-15. 

Iowa:  Employers are required to allow an employee up to three hours of time off for voting unless the polls are open three hours before or after that employee's shift.  The total time off allowed is three hours, less the time the polls are open before or after the shift.  Employees are required to apply for the time off in writing before the election day and the employer may designate the period of time to be taken.  Time off for voting must be paid.  Iowa Code Ann. § 49.109.

Kansas:  Employers must give an employee up to two hours of time off from work to vote unless the polls are open for two hours before or after the employee's work shift.  The total time off allowed is two hours, less the time the polls are open before or after work.  The employer can specify the particular time when the employee may be absent as long as that time is not during a regular lunch break.  Time off for voting must be paid.  Kan. Stat. Ann. § 25-418.

Kentucky:  Employers are required to allow employees at least four hours of time off in order to vote or cast an absentee ballot, but employees must request leave before the day of the election.  The employer may select the time during which employees may be absent from work.  Employers are not required to grant paid time off.  Ky. Const. § 148; Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 118.035. 

Louisiana: There is no state law regarding employee time off to vote, but employers cannot coerce, threaten, or influence employees in their choice of candidates and decision to vote or refrain from voting.  La. Rev. Stat. 23:961; La. Rev. Stat. 23-962.

Maryland:  Employers must give an employee up to two hours of time off from work in order to vote, provided that the employee does not have two consecutive non-working hours for voting while the polls are open.  Time off for voting must be paid.  Employees must furnish proof that they voted or attempted to vote.  Md. Code Ann. § 10-315.

Massachusetts:  Employers are required to grant an employee time off to vote during the first two hours after the polls open, if the employee requests time off during that period.  Only those who are employed in a "manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishment"  are eligible for time off under this provision.  Time off for voting need not be paid.  Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 178. 

Minnesota:  Employers are required to give employees "the time necessary" to vote.  Time off for voting must be paid.  Minn. Stat. § 204C.04.

Mississippi: There is no state law regarding employee time off to vote but employers cannot threaten, coerce, or discharge employees because an employee chooses to vote or refrain from voting, or because of the employee's failure to vote for a particular candidate.  Miss. Code. Ann. § 23-15-871.

Missouri:  Employers are required to give an employee up to three hours off from work to vote unless the polls are open for three non-working hours before or after the employee's work shift.  The employer may specify the three hours that the employee may take off for voting.  An employee taking time off to vote must request such time off before election day.  Time off for voting must be paid.  Mo. Rev. Stat. § 115.639.

Nebraska:  Employers are required to give time off to vote to employees who do not have two consecutive non-working hours while the polls are open.  This time shall be up to two hours but any non-working time the employee has while the polls are open may be subtracted.  If the employee applies for the absence before election day, the time off is to be paid. The employer may specify the time when the employee may be absent.  Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-922.

Nevada:  Employers are required to give "sufficient time" for employees to vote if it is impracticable for them to vote during non-working hours.  An employee who works two miles or less from a polling place may take one hour; two to ten miles, two hours; more than ten miles, three hours.  The employer may designate the hours an employee will take to vote. Time off is to be paid.  Nev. Rev. Stat. § 293.463. 

New Hampshire:  Employers are not required to give employees time off to vote, but if an employee must be physically present at work or in transit to and from work from the time the polls open to when they close, the employee may vote by absentee ballot.  New Hamp. Rev. Stat. § 657:1.

New Mexico:  Employers are required to give an employee two hours off to vote unless the employee's work day begins more than two hours after the polls are open or ends more than three hours before the polls close.  An employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent.  Time off is to be paid.  N. Mex. Stat. § 1-12-42.

New York:  Employers are required to give up to two hours of paid leave to vote to employees who do not have four consecutive non-working hours between the polls opening and closing, and who do not have "sufficient" non-working time to vote.  Employees must request the leave between two and ten days before the election day.  The employer may decide whether the leave is to be taken at the beginning or end of an employee's shift, unless otherwise mutually agreed.  Employers must conspicuously post this rule in the workplace ten days prior to the election.  Consol. Laws of N.Y. § 3-110.

North Dakota:  There is no provision mandating time off for voting employees, but employers are "encouraged" to establish a program allowing employees time off to vote when their work schedule conflicts with the time in which the polls are open.  N.D. Cent. Code § 16.1-01-02.1.

Ohio:  Employers cannot fire or threaten to fire an employee for taking a reasonable amount of time to vote.  Employers may not otherwise induce or compel an employee to vote or refrain from voting.  Ohio Rev. Code § 3599.06

Oklahoma:  Employers must allow an employee two hours off to vote unless the employee has at least three consecutive non-working hours in which to vote.  If under the circumstances three hours is not adequate, employees may take "sufficient" time.  Employers may specify the hours for leave.  Employees must give notice of the need for leave the day before the election and cannot have their pay reduced if proof of voting is provided. Okla. Stat. Ann. Tit. 26 § 7-101.

South Dakota:  Employers are required to provide up to two consecutive hours during the work day for an employee to vote if the employee does not have two consecutive, non-working hours when the polls are open. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent.  Time off is to be paid.  S.D. Codified Laws § 12-3-5.

Tennessee:  Employees who begin their work day less than three hours after polls open and finish less than three hours before polls close are entitled to up to three hours paid leave to vote.  Employees must request leave by noon the day before the election. The employer can set the time for leave to vote.  Tenn. Code § 2-1-106.

Texas:  Employers are required to allow an employee sufficient time to vote, unless the employee has two consecutive non-working hours in which to vote.  Time off is to be paid.  State agencies must allow each agency employee sufficient time off to vote in any national, state, or local election, without a deduction in salary or accrued leave.  Tex. Elec. Code § 276.004; Tex. Gov. Code § 661.914.

Utah:  Employers are required to give an employee up to two paid hours off to vote unless the employee has three or more non-working hours while the polls are open.  The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent, however, if the employee requests to be absent at the beginning or end of a shift, the employer must grant that request.  The employee must apply for leave before election day.  Utah Code Ann. § 20A-3-103.

Washington:  Employers are required to arrange their employees' schedules on election day so as to allow each employee a reasonable time, up to two hours, in which to vote.  If an employee does not have two free hours during the day, not including meal or rest breaks, the employer shall permit that employee to take up to two paid hours to vote.  These provisions do not apply if the employee had sufficient time to secure an absentee ballot after being apprised of his work schedule on election day.  Wash. Rev. Code § 49.28.120.

West Virginia:  Employees who do not have three hours of their own time during polling hours are entitled to up to three paid hours of leave to vote.  The employee must demand leave in writing at least three days before the election.  In certain essential operations requiring the continuity of the operations (health, transportation, communication, production, manufacturing, and processing facilities), employers receiving written requests can schedule the hours when employees will be allowed to leave, but must allow sufficient and convenient time to vote.  W.Va. Code § 3-1-42.

Wisconsin:  Employees are entitled to up to three hours of leave to vote.  Employees must request such leave before election day.  Pay can be deducted for the time away from work.  The employer may decide when the leave is taken. Wis. Stat. § 6.76.

Wyoming:  Employers are required to give employees one hour of time off to vote, other than meal breaks.  The employer may decide when each employee may be absent.  Time off is to be paid as long as the employee actually votes.  Employees who have three or more consecutive non-working hours while the polls are open are not entitled to leave.  Wyo. Stat. § 22-2-111.


 

Published In: Elections & Politics Updates, Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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