Primary Elections & Voter Leave Laws: How Much Time Off Does an Employee Get To Vote?

With primary elections around the corner, employers are wondering what their obligations are with respect to providing employees time off to vote. Although there is no federal law that requires employers to give employees time off to vote in elections, an employer’s obligation in this regard varies by state law. To date, thirty-one states have voter leave laws. Some states require employers to provide paid voting leave. To get paid, employees might have to provide advance notice to their employers of their need for time off and proof from their voting places that they cast their ballots. Further, certain states require employers to post notice of employee voting rights before every election. Read on to find out what the law is in your state.

(For further discussion regarding politics in the workplace, click here for our previous post regarding the risks associated with a politically contentious workplace.)

Alabama

Employees are entitled to up to one hour of voting leave, if the polls are not open at least two hours before their regular shift or at least one hour after their regular shift. Employees must provide reasonable notice to be given this time off. The employer may specify the hours that the employee can take off. The statute does not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid. Ala. Code §17–1–5.

Alaska

Employees who do not have sufficient time outside of working hours within which to vote may, without loss of pay, take off as much working time as will enable voting. The employer may specify the hours that the employee can take off. If any employee has two consecutive hours in which to vote, either between the opening of the polls and the beginning of the employee’s regular working shift, or between the end of the regular working shift and the closing of the polls, the employee shall be considered to have sufficient time outside working hours within which to vote. Alaska Stat. §§ 15.15.100, 15.56.100.

Arizona

Employees are entitled to up to three hours of paid voting leave, if the polls are not open three consecutive hours outside the their regular shift. Employees must give notice in advance of election day to be given this time off. The employer may specify the hours that the employee can take off. The employer may not penalize the employee for this time off or make any deduction from the employee’s usual salary or wages. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 16-402.

Arkansas

An employer must schedule work hours so that an employee has a sufficient opportunity to vote. The employee does not have to request the time off in advance. The statute does not state whether the time off is paid or unpaid. Ark. Code Ann. § 7-1-102.

California

Employees are allowed up to two paid hours of voting leave at the beginning or end of their regular working shift. An employee must provide notice at least two working days in advance of the election if, on the third working day prior to the election, the employee knows or has reason to believe there will be a need for time off to vote. An employee will be excluded from the time off rules if there is sufficient non-working time to vote. Although the law requires time to be taken at the beginning or end of the work shift, the employer and employee can agree on another arrangement. Further, employers must post a conspicuous notice of employee voting rights ten days before every statewide election. Cal. Elec. Code §§ 14000, 14001.

Colorado

Employees are entitled to up to two hours of paid voting leave. An employee must request voting leave prior to election day. The employer may specify the hours during which an employee can be absent, but the hours must be at the beginning or end of the shift, if the employee so requests. An employer is not required to provide voting leave if the employee’s shift begins at least three hours after the polls open or ends at least three hours before the polls close. Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 1-7-102, 31-10-603.

Georgia

Employees are entitled to up to two hours of voting leave. The employee must give reasonable notice to the employer of the leave. The statute does not require that the leave be paid. The employer may specify the hours during which an employee can be absent. An employer is not required to provide voting leave if the employee’s shift begins at least two hours after the polls open or ends at least two hours before the polls close. O.C.G.A. § 21-2-404.

Hawaii

Employees are entitled to two hours of voting leave (excluding any lunch or rest periods). The employer must permit a two-hour absence from work if the employee’s working hours begin less than two hours after polls open and less than two hours before polls close. If, however, the employer can verify that the employee took leave and failed to vote, the employer may make appropriate deductions from the employee’s salary or wages. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-95.

Illinois

Employees are allowed up to two hours of paid voting leave with the employer’s consent. An employee must apply for leave prior to election day. The employer must permit a two-hour absence from work if the employee’s working hours begin less than two hours after polls open and less than two hours before polls close. The employer may specify the hours during which an employee can be absent. 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 5/7-42, 5/17-15.

Iowa

If the polls are not open three consecutive hours outside the employee’s regular shift, the employee is entitled to paid voting leave in an amount, that when added to the employee’s non-working time, totals three consecutive hours while the polls are open. Application by any employee for such absence shall be made individually and in writing prior to the date of the election, and the employer shall designate the period of time to be taken. The employer may not penalize the employee for this time off or make any deduction from the employee’s usual salary or wages. Iowa Code § 49-109.

Kansas

Employees are allowed up to two hours of paid voting leave if the polls are not open outside an employee’s work shift.  If the polls are open before or after an employee’s work shift for fewer than two consecutive hours, then the employee is only entitled to an amount of time off that, when added to the time that the polls are open before or after work, totals two consecutive hours. The employer can specify the time off that it will give an employee. Such time cannot include any regular meal breaks. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 25-418.

Kentucky

The statute requires a reasonable amount of leave time to vote, which cannot be less than four hours. The employee must give the employer notice prior to election day. The employer may specify the time off given to the employee. The statute does not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid, however, it states that the employer cannot penalize the employee for the absence. An employer may discipline an employee if time off to vote is taken but no vote is cast. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann § 118.035; Ky. Const. § 148.

Maryland

Employees are allowed up to two hours of paid voting leave if the employee does not have two hours of continuous off-duty time during the time that the polls are open. Each employee must furnish proof to the employer that the employee has voted or attempted to vote. The proof that an employee has voted or attempted to vote must be on a form prescribed by the State Board. Md. Code, Com. Law § 10-315.

Massachusetts

Employees in manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishments are allowed time off during the first two hours after the polls have opened only if time off has been requested in advance. The statute does not state whether the time off is paid or unpaid. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 178.

Minnesota

An employee has a right to be absent from work for the purpose of voting for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work, without penalty or deduction from salary or wages. Minn. Stat. §§ 204C.04, 204B.185.

Mississippi

Employees are entitled to the amount of time necessary to cast their vote. The statute does not specify if this time must be paid. Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-871.

Missouri

Employees are entitled to up to three hours of paid voting leave. An employee must request voting leave prior to election day. The employer may specify the hours during which an employee can be absent. An employer is not required to provide voting leave if the employee’s shift begins at least three hours after the polls open or ends at least three hours before the polls close. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 115.639.

Nebraska

Employees are allowed up to two hours of paid voting leave if the polls are not open for two consecutive hours outside of their work shift. If the polls are open before or after an employee’s work shift for fewer than two consecutive hours, then the employee is only entitled to an amount of time off that, when added to the time that the polls are open before or after work, totals two consecutive hours. The employer can specify the time off that it will give an employee. Further, the leave is only paid if the employee applies for the leave either prior to or on election day. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 32-922.

Nevada

Any registered voter may be absent from his or her place of employment at a time to be designated by the employer for a sufficient time to vote, if it is impracticable for the voter to vote before or after his or her hours of employment. A sufficient time to vote shall be determined as follows:

If the distance between the place of such voter’s employment and (a) the polling place where such person votes is two miles or less, then the employee is entitled to one hour of voting leave.

If the distance is more than two miles but not more than ten (b) miles, then the employee is entitled to two hours of voting leave.

If the distance is more than ten miles, then the employee is entitled to three hours of voting leave. (c)

In order to be paid for the leave, an employee must submit a request for civil leave with pay to the person authorized to grant such leave before the day of the election. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 293.463; Nev. Admin. Code § 284.586.

New Mexico

Employees are entitled to up to two hours of voting leave. The employer may specify the hours during which an employee can be absent. An employer is not required to provide voting leave if the employee’s shift begins at least two hours after the polls open or ends at least three hours before the polls close. Although the statute does not specify whether this leave must be paid, it states that an employer may not penalize an employee for the absence. N.M. Stat. 178 § 1-12-42.

New York 

An employee is allowed sufficient time to vote if polls are not open four consecutive hours outside the employee’s regular shift. The employee must notify the employer of the need for time off at least two but not more than ten working days prior to the election, and the employer may specify whether the employee takes time off at the beginning or end of the shift. Employers must post a conspicuous notice of employee rights at least ten days before election day. If an employee has four consecutive hours either before the opening of the polls and the beginning of a working shift, or between the end of a working shift and the closing of the polls, the employee is not entitled to any paid time. If there are not four consecutive hours before or after the regular working shift, the employee is entitled to up to two hours paid time off at the beginning or end of the shift. N.Y. Elec. Law §§ 3-110, 17-118.

North Dakota

Employers are encouraged to establish a program to grant an employee who is a qualified voter time off for the purpose of voting when an employee’s regular work schedule conflicts with voting during the time when polls are open. N.D. Cent. Code § 16.1-01-02.1.

Ohio

Employees may take a reasonable amount of time to vote on election day. The statute does not state whether the time off is paid or unpaid. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 3599.05, 3599.06.

Oklahoma

Employees are allowed two hours of voting time, and if the employee is at such a distance from the voting place that more than two hours are required, then the employee shall be allowed a sufficient time in which to cast a ballot. The employee must provide written or oral notice the day before the election. Upon proof of voting, the employee will be entitled to pay for the voting leave. The employer may specify the hours during which an employee can be absent. An employer is not required to provide voting leave if the employee’s shift begins at least three hours after the polls open or ends at least three hours before the polls close. Further, the employer may change the work hours to allow three hours before the beginning of work (or after the work hours) for the employee to cast a vote. Okla. Stat. tit. 26, § 7-101.

South Dakota

Employees are allowed up to two hours of paid voting leave if the polls are not open for two consecutive hours outside of their work shift. The employer may specify the time off that the employee is given to vote. S.D. Codified Laws § 12-3-5

Tennessee

Employees are allowed up to three hours of paid voting leave if the polls are not open for three consecutive hours outside of the employee’s work shift. The employee must give notice of the need for time off to vote at least before 12:00 p.m. on the day prior to the election. The employer may specify the time off that the employee is given to vote. Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-1-106.

Texas

The employee is allowed reasonable time off to vote if the polls are not open two consecutive hours outside the employee’s regular shift. This time off is paid. Tex. Elec. Code Ann. § 276.004.

Utah

An employee may take up to two hours of paid voting leave, unless there are three or more non-working hours in which to vote. The employee must request leave prior to election day. The employer may specify the time off that the employee is given to vote. The employer must grant the employee’s request for leave at the beginning or end of the regular work shift. Utah Code Ann. § 20A-3-103.

West Virginia

Employees, who make a written demand at least three days prior to election day, are entitled to up to three hours of paid voting leave. If an employee has three or more hours of his/her own time away from the workplace at any time between the hours of the opening and the closing of the polls and fails or neglects to vote or elects not to vote during such free time, the employee may be subject to wage or salary deductions for the time actually absent for voting. In essential government, health, hospital, transportation and communication services and in production, manufacturing and processing works requiring continuity in operation, the employer may, upon receipt of such written demand for voting time off, arrange and schedule a calendar of time off for any and all of his/her employees for voting so as to avoid impairment or disruption of essential services and operations, but every such schedule or calendar of time off for voting must provide ample and convenient time and opportunity for each employee to cast his/her vote. W. Va. Code § 3-1-42.

Wisconsin

Employees may take up to three hours of voting leave. The employee must provide notice before election day. The employer may specify the time off that the employee is given to vote. The leave does not have to be paid. Wis. Stat. § 6.76.

Wyoming

Employees are entitled to one hour of paid voting leave (excluding meal breaks)—the hour being at the convenience of the employer—unless there are three or more non-working hours in which to vote. Wyo. Stat. § 22-2-111.

* Employers should be mindful that in addition to voter leave laws, many states have statutory provisions pertaining to employee rights with respect to serving as an election official and/or participating in political activity.

*To date, the following nineteen states and the District of Columbia do not have voter leave laws (although employers should be mindful of local ordinances within these states that may provide voter leave): Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Topics:  Elections Code, Employee Rights, Employer Liability Issues, Employer Mandates, Voting Leave

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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