Q. Today I had an employee ask if she could take time off to vote on Election Day. What are my obligations as an employer to grant her request for leave?
As good employers, you want your employees to be active in the community, and part of that activism involves voting. Activating employees as members of the small-business community can mean taking simple steps like making sure they are all registered to vote, encouraging them to vote and ensuring that they understand which candidates support your business and industry.
When it comes to giving time off to vote, there are no federal laws that require you to do so. However, a majority of the states have laws requiring employers give employees time off to vote, particularly in situations where an employee's work hours do not permit sufficient time to vote during poll hours. Remember that flexibility is the key when it comes to encouraging employees to vote. While your state law may not mandate paid time off, there's nothing that prohibits you from implementing a voting policy that offers your employees greater flexibility or privileges than what the law requires.
What do most state voting laws require?
In many states, the following rules generally apply:
- If polls are open two or three hours before or after employees' normal tour of duty, the employer is not obligated to provide time off to vote.
- Employers may require that employees provide written requests for time off to vote.
- Employers may designate when time off will be permitted for employees to vote.
- Employers may not include lunch periods as part of the voting time off permitted.
- Employees may not be disciplined or retaliated against for taking time off to vote.
Does my state require time off to vote?
Review the chart below to see which requirements you must meet regarding voting leave.
Want to establish a voting policy for your business?
To view a sample voting leave policy, NFIB members can download a copy of the NFIB Legal Foundation's Model Employee Handbook for Small Business, which includes a model voting time off policy.
|State||Time Allowed to Vote||Paid or Unpaid||Applicable Statute|
|Alabama||The necessary time off shall not exceed one hour and if the hours of work of the employee commence at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least one hour prior to the closing of the polls, then the time off for voting as provided in this section shall not be available.||Unspecified||2006 Alabama Laws Act 2006-545 (H.B. 141)|
|Alaska||Sufficient time to vote, unless the 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.||Paid||Alaska Statutes § 15.15.100|
|Arizona||Three hours, unless polls are open three hours before or after shift.||Paid||Arizona Revised Statutes §16-402|
|Arkansas||Employer shall schedule sufficient time on election days so that employees may vote.||Unspecified||Arkansas Code § 7-1-102|
|California||Two hours at the beginning or end of the regular working shift.||Paid||California Election Code § 14000|
|Colorado||Two hours unless polls are open three hours before or after regular working shift.||Paid||Colorado Revised Statutes §1-7-102|
|Georgia||Two hours unless polls are open two hours before or after regular working shift||Unspecified||Georgia Code §21-2-404|
|Hawaii||Two hours, unless polls are open two consecutive non-working hours.||Paid, with proof that vote is cast||Hawaii Revised Statutes §11-95|
|Illinois||Two hours.||Unpaid||10 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/17-15|
|Iowa||Three hours, unless employee has 3 consecutive hours non-work time when polls are open.||Paid||Iowa Code Annotated § 49.109|
|Kansas||Up to two hours.||Paid||Kansas Statutes Annotated §25-418|
|Kentucky||Up to four hours.||Unpaid||Kentucky Revised Statutes § 118.035|
|Maryland||Employees who do not otherwise have two hours of continuous off-duty time when the polls are open may take up to two hours of leave to vote.||Paid with proof of voting||Maryland Code, Election Law, § 10-315|
|Massachusetts||Voters employed in mechanical, manufacturing or mercantile businesses allowed time off during the first two hours after the polls have opened only if an application for absence has been submitted.||Unspecified||Massachusetts General Laws Annotated 149 § 178|
|Minnesota||Employees are allowed to take time off during the mornings of election days.||Paid||Minnesota Statutes Annotated § 204C.04|
|Missouri||Employees may take up to three hours off to vote on Election Day during the times the polls are open if a request for time is made prior to Election Day and the polls are not open for three successive hours when the employee is not at work. The employer may specify any three hours when the polls are open during which employees may take time off to vote.||Paid||Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes 115.639|
|Nebraska||Employees are entitled to up to two hours to vote if the employee does not have two consecutive non-work hours to vote while the polls are open. The employee must request time off to vote prior to the Election Day, and the employer may specify when during the working day employees may take time off.||Paid||Nebraska Revised Statutes § 32-922|
|Nevada||Employees are allowed one to three hours on election days to vote if they do not have "sufficient" free time outside working hours, depending on the distance between work and the polling site. Employees must apply for time prior to Election Day. Employers may designate the specific time employees may take.||Paid||Nevada Revised Statues 293.463|
|New Mexico||Employees may have up to two hours, unless they have two free hours before work or three free hours after work while the polls are open. The employer may designate the hours to be taken, but it may not include lunch or rest hours.||Paid||New Mexico Statutes § 1-12-42|
|New York||Employees are allowed to take "sufficient time" on Election Day as is necessary to allow them to vote, if four consecutive non-working hours are not available while the polls are open. Employers may designate whether the time is to be taken at the beginning or end of the shift. Employees must notify employers of the need for time off not more than 10 days and not less than 2 days before the election. Employers must post a conspicuous notice of employee rights at least ten days before Election Day.||Paid up to two hours||McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York § 3-110|
|North Dakota||The law encourages employers to provide time off to vote when an employee's regular work schedule conflicts with the times polls are open. NOTE: The recommended policy is voluntary.||Unspecified||N.D. Cent. Code § 16.1-01-02.1|
|Ohio||Employers are prohibited from firing an employee who takes a reasonable amount of time to vote.||Paid for salaried employees.||Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3599.06|
|Oklahoma||Every employer must allow its registered voters up to two hours off to vote on Election Day, during the time when the polls are open.||Paid||Okla. Stat. Ann. § 26-7-101|
|South Dakota||Employees are entitled to be absent from work on Election Day between the time the polls open and when they close, if the person does not have a period of two consecutive hours during the time the polls are open in which he or she is not required to be at work.||Paid||S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 12-3-5|
|Tennessee||An employee may be absent for a reasonable time, not to exceed three hours, without penalty to vote during the time the polls are open in the county where the employee resides. If the tour of duty of an employee begins three or more hours after the opening of the polls or ends three or more hours before the closing of the polls of the county where the employee is a resident, the employee may not take time off under this section. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent. Application for such absence shall be made to the employer before noon of the day before the election.||Paid||Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-1-106|
|Texas||Unless the polls are open for voting for two consecutive hours outside of the employee’s working hours, employers must give employees leave to vote without penalty.||Paid||Tex. Code Ann. Election Code § 276.004|
|Utah||Employers must provide employees up to two hours off between the time the polls open and when they close, unless the employee has at least three non-working hours during the time the polls are open. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent.||Paid||Utah Code Ann. § 20A-3-103|
|Washington||Employers are required to arrange employee work time on the day of an election so that each employee has a reasonable amount of time available for voting if the employee would not otherwise have two hours free (not including meal or rest breaks) to vote while the polls are open.||Paid||RCWA 49.28.120|
|West Virginia||Maximum of three hours time off to vote must be granted upon written demand made at least three days prior to Election Day.||Paid||W.Va. Code § 3-1-42|
|Wisconsin||An employee is permitted time off to vote for a period not to exceed three successive hours while the polls are open. The employee must notify the employer before Election Day of the intended absence. The employer may designate the time of day for the absence.||Unpaid||Wis. Stat. § 6.76(1)|
|Wyoming||At the employee's convenience, the employee may take one hour between the opening and closing of polls to vote.||Paid||Wyo. Stat. § 22-2-111|