Employees are citizens, too.

Are you required to provide time off for voting?

by Katari Buck

Leaves are changing colors, temperatures are dropping, and kids look forward to tricks and treats. This can only mean one thing – it’s election season! Many states have already begun early voting, with others to follow suit in the coming days and weeks. And, then of course, there’s Election Day on November 6.

Employees will head to the polls, and some will need time off from work to do so. Most states require employers to provide employees time off to exercise their civic right to vote. State laws vary with regard to how much time off is required, whether employees must provide advance notice that they intend to take time off to vote, and whether employers must pay employees for time away from work for voting. Even most states that do not require employers to provide time off to vote do prohibit employers from disciplining or firing employees who take such time off. Penalties for violating voting leave laws vary from small fines to revocation of an organization’s state charter to criminal penalties.

Are you prepared?
As an employer, it is important that you know your state’s requirements regarding time off for voting. Even if your state does not require you to allow time off, your organization’s employee handbook or other policies may allow employees time off for voting, either paid or unpaid.

Avoid bad publicity.
Employers should consider the ramifications of not allowing time off, even when doing so does not violate the law. In the age of YouTube, Facebook, and the never-ending news cycle, unwanted scrutiny from the media and the public may be much more costly to your organization than allowing employees time off for voting. And, allowing paid time off may just buy your organization some good will with your employees.

Put it in writing.
To avoid confusion during election season, your organization should have a written policy in place regarding time off for voting. In addition to meeting your state’s legal requirements, your policy should address eligibility for voting, how much time employees may take off to vote, whether the time off will be paid, whether employees may take time off for early voting or for voting only on Election Day, and how much advance notice, if any, employees must give.

For specific information regarding your state’s voting leave laws, or for help drafting a voting leave policy, contact us on our website.

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