Employer Voting Leave Obligations

With Election Day drawing near, employers should be prepared to handle requests from employees for time off from work to vote. Although Federal law does not require giving employees time off to vote, most states provide employees with the right to take time off from work to vote.

You can find a summary of the leave laws required for each state here. This HR compliance overview includes a chart of every state's voting leave laws.

If you are a multi-state employer, you should consider reviewing the requirements for each state in which you conduct business. In addition to the leave law summaries linked above, North Risk clients can also find more detailed information regarding leave law requirements using the Multi-State Laws Comparison Tool available within their Zywave Client Portal. The Multi-State Laws Comparison Tool will allow you to select states in which you operate in, as well as the employee leave requirements regarding the topic of voting.

Additionally, there are a few other things to consider as you prepare to handle requests from employees for time off from work to vote. Below is a list of common voting leave Q&As.

Is Voting Leave Paid or Unpaid?

State voting leave laws vary on whether granting time off to non-exempt employees to vote must be paid. In most states with voting leave laws, the law requires paid leave; but a handful, including Georgia, Alabama, and Wisconsin, provide for unpaid leave.

For exempt employees, the answer is clear: Exempt employees who take a partial day off to vote during normal working hours may not have their pay reduced since doing so would jeopardize their exempt status under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

How Much Voting Leave is Required?

State and local laws also vary in the amount of time that must be provided and whether an employer can dictate which hours are taken off, such as at the start or end of the employee's workday. Many states specify the amount of time off that must be provided (typically between one to four hours), while others refer to an unspecified "reasonable" or "sufficient" amount of time. In a few states, employers must allow an employee to take the entire day off if the employee intends to volunteer to help administer the election.

Is Prior Notice to Take Time off Required?

Many states require employees to provide notice prior to taking time off to vote (typically a day or two in advance).

How is Voting Leave Handled with Early Voting and Voting by Mail?

Particularly in light of the pandemic, many Americans are choosing to vote early or to vote by mail. Employers may have questions about how this impacts their voting leave obligations. Typically, state laws requiring an employer to provide time off to vote also stipulate that the time off is only available to employees who lack sufficient time outside of working hours to vote. Employers could argue that states and localities with flexible voting options enable employees to vote on weekends or other days when they are not scheduled to work, eliminating the need to request voting leave on election days. Employers would be wise to consult with legal counsel prior to denying leave to an employee in these circumstances since most state laws have not yet addressed this topic.

If you have questions related to this update, please contact your North Risk Partners advisor. Don’t have an advisor? No problem. We’ll help you find one.

This regulatory update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

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