Are Employers Required to Allow Time-Off to Vote?

Date: November 04, 2016

As we approach Election Day, some employers may be asking: “Am I obligated to allow time-off for my employees to vote?”  And of course, 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.  A majority of the states, however, have laws that require employers to 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 can be 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? Click on your state here 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, download a copy of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center’s available on How to Write a Great Employee Handbook article, which includes a model Voting Time Off policy. 
*This article does not provide legal advice. Employers are advised to retain counsel from a trusted attorney with experience in employment law.  

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