Last Updated on October 13th, 2020

On November 3rd, 2020, U.S. registered voters will participate in one of the most important elections in the nation’s history. On this and all future Election Days, employers need to make sure they are following applicable employee voting rights laws. Failure to comply with such requirements could lead to criminal or civil penalties.

General State Employee Voting Leave Laws

In most situations, employee voting laws vary by state. For example, in some states, employers have to provide paid time off for early voting or absentee ballot submission. Other states allow such time to be unpaid. The laws also differ usually by state in:

  • the amount of time provided; and
  • what hours the employer can dictate employees to take off for voting.

States may also have specific notice requirements advising employees of their voting leave rights. In addition, some locations order that employers provide time off to those who serve as election officials.

Specific State Employee Voting Leave Laws

As of the publication of this post, 30 states have some form of voting leave laws. To help employers follow these laws,  the National Law Review has published a list of specific voting leave requirements. Included in this blog post is a sampling of that list and only includes two states: California and New York. Of note to New York employers: the state’s voting leave requirements are recent and became effective this year.

California (California Election Code § 14000)

Employees receive an amount of time off to vote that, when added to the voting time otherwise available to the employee outside of working hours, will enable the employee to vote. An employee with sufficient non-working time to vote is not entitled to additional time off to vote.

    • Employees must give two working days’ advance notice prior to the election.
    • Employees can take time only at the beginning or end of the work shift. This time needs to allow the greatest amount of possible free time for voting. The time frame also needs to allow the least time off from work, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon.
    • Paid: No more than 2 hours of the time taken off for voting may be without loss of pay.
    • Posting Requirement: Employers must post a notice of voting time requirements at least 10 days before an election. Employers can satisfy this requirement by posting a copy of the California “Time Off to Vote”

New York (New York Election Law § 3-110)

The law states that a registered voter who does not have 4 consecutive non-working hours to vote while the polls are open may take time off. The voter may take as much working time as needed to vote and be paid for up to 2 hours.

    • The employee must provide notice of leave at least 2 working days prior to the election.
    • The employer may specify the hours. Employees must take it at the beginning or end of the work shift. The employer can designate what time can be taken, unless otherwise agreed upon.
    • Not more than 2 hours may be without loss of pay.
    • Posting Requirement. Employers must conspicuously post a notice about the law at least 10 working days before every election. The notice needs to remain posted until the close of the polls on Election Day.

Employer Takeaways

Employers should review existing policies and practices immediately to ensure compliance with applicable laws. Also, employers should address any employee requests for time off prior to Election Day. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should consider the impact of voting time off for remote employees. This would include having to address the technical aspects of posting any required state or local notices.