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Are Employers Required to Provide Time Off for Employees to Vote?

Are Employers Required to Provide Time Off for Employees to Vote?

Unlike many other countries, the United States doesn’t have a national voting holiday. And because American elections take place during the week, employees who work 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday jobs must ask off, leave work early, or arrive late to vote. With this in mind, there are a number of requirements, regulations, and protections in place that safeguard employee voting.

 

Where Does the U.S. Stand on National Voting Holidays?

Key pieces of legislation like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 protect people from discrimination and disenfranchisement when casting votes. Yet hurdles still remain. 

According to the Pew Research Center, “America’s election schedule makes it an outlier among advanced industrial democracies.” Of the 37 member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 27 hold their national elections on the weekend. Two more hold elections on weekdays, but those dates are designated as national holidays. Meanwhile, Election Day in the U.S. typically falls on a Tuesday. 

Some private companies offer PTO for voting, but they’re in the minority. On the other hand, In more than a dozen states, Election Day is a paid holiday (Virginia most recently made this change). But elsewhere, employees must ask off, vote early, or arrive late to the polls.

 

Are Employers Required to Provide Time Off for Employees to Vote?

According to policy institute Workplace Fairness, almost every state requires employers to permit employees to take time off to vote, though these rules and regulations differ from state to state. Equally important, almost every state prohibits employers from firing or punishing workers who take time off to vote—and other regulations exist to protect workers from voter intimidation, as compiled by SHRM. 

Some states, like Arkansas, require employers to adjust employees’ work schedules on election days so that employees can vote. In others, such as New York, employees are allowed to take off as much time as needed to vote—no matter the election—as long as the time off is taken at the beginning or end of a shift (unless otherwise specified). Up to three hours of this leave is required to be paid.

Paid time off also varies depending on state law. Legal publisher Nolo compiled and maintains a comprehensive resource detailing each state regulation regarding employee voting protections, which can be found here. For a full list of primary voting dates by state, use the following list from the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP).

 

What Else Can HR Do?

First, make sure that you understand the state laws regarding voting. It’s possible that you may be in violation if you haven’t recently reviewed the rules. If you are, reassess and update your existing policies to ensure that you’re compliant and not restricting your workers’ rights. 

Then, evaluate your employee handbook to determine if language exists regarding voting. If not, consider implementing new policies that permit employees to take time off during local, state, and federal elections.  

HR teams can take this one step further by proposing even more flexible time-off policies that better accommodate employees, such as unlimited PTO. Not only is this fringe benefit something that can improve your company’s recruiting efforts, but it demonstrates your values to current teammates—and can save time and money in administrative costs.

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