Aside from the usual office politics and watercooler debates that characterize it, election season also spurs some confusion among HR professionals. Are employers required to let employees vote during working hours? How many hours of leave are they required to offer, and should they be paid or unpaid?
As with most things in employment law, “it depends.” While there is no federal law requiring employers to let workers vote during working hours, there are a number of state laws that do. Even in some of those instances, the laws may be unclear or subject to interpretation; terms like “reasonable” or “sufficient” may be used in lieu of specifics hours. North Dakota, for example, only “encourages” employers to grant voting leave.
Below is a round-up of all the existing state laws, with links to their actual language:
Alabama: Workers are given one hour to go and vote during working hours—but the employer can dictate when. It’s up to the employer whether the leave is paid or unpaid. Alabama Code § 17-1-5
Alaska: Employers can take as much paid leave as necessary to vote, assuming they do not have “sufficient time” outside of working hours. Alaska Code § 15.15.100
Arkansas: On election days, employers must schedule work hours that allow employees enough time to vote. Arkansas Code § 7-1-102
California: Employees have two hours of paid leave at either the beginning or end of their shifts—if they don’t have enough time outside of working hours. There is also an office posting requirement for employers ten days before election day. California Elections Code § 14000
Colorado: Employees have two hours of paid leave. While businesses can dictate when, if an employee wants to take his or her time at the beginning or end of their shift, they must be allowed to. Colorado Revised Statutes § 1-7-102
Georgia: Employees are entitled to up to two hours of unpaid voting leave. The business can dictate when that leave occurs. Georgia Code § 21-2-404
Hawaii: Workers have two hours of paid leave—separate from their regular lunch or rest breaks—presuming that the polls aren’t open for two hours before or after their shift. An employer may request proof of voting. Hawaii Revised Statutes § 11-95
Illinois: Workers have two hours of paid leave but must ask for the leave prior to election day. The employer can dictate when the worker takes his or her leave. Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/17-15
Iowa: If an employee does not have three consecutive hours available to vote while the polls are open, an employer must give them as much time off as necessary to do so. No deduction can be made from their pay. The employee must first submit their request in writing. Iowa Code § 49.109
Kansas: Workers have two hours of paid leave available, if the polls are not open for two consecutive hours before or after their shift. Employers may dictate when an employee takes leave. Kansas Statutes § 25-418
Kentucky: Employees can take up to four hours of unpaid leave to vote. Employers may dictate when the employee takes leave and punish those who took leave but did not actually vote. Kentucky Revised Statutes § 118.035
Maryland: Workers have two hours of paid leave presuming that the polls aren’t open for two hours before or after their shift. An employer may request proof of voting. Maryland Election Law Code § 10-315
Massachusetts: Industrial employees cannot be required to work during the first two hours that the polls are open. The law leaves it to employers to decide if the leave is paid or unpaid. Massachusetts General Laws 149 § 178
Nevada: When it is “impractical” for them to vote outside of working hours, employees are entitled to one to three hours of paid leave, depending on the distance between their place of working and polling station. Employers may dictate when the leave occurs. Nevada Rev. Stat. 293.463
New Mexico: Employees are permitted two hours of unpaid leave. A business cannot penalize its employees for taking leave on Election Day. New Mexico Stat. § 1-12-42
New York: Workers with less than four consecutive hours outside of work to vote are entitled to two hours of paid leave. Employees must request the leave before Election Day. There is a mandatory posting requirement 10 days ahead of the election. Consolidated Laws of New York § 3-110
Ohio: Businesses cannot punish employees for taking a “reasonable” amount of leave to vote on Election Day. Ohio Rev. Code § 3599.06
Oklahoma: Employees without a three-hour window to vote before or after their shift are entitled to two hours of paid leave. The employer may dictate when the leave is taken and may ask to see proof of voting. Oklahoma Statutes Ann. § 26-7-101
Tennessee: Employees without a three-hour window to vote before or after their shift are entitled to up to three hours of paid leave. Tennessee Code § 2-1-106
Texas: If an employee does not have a two-hour window to vote before or after their shift, they are allowed a “reasonable” amount of leave to vote. The time off is paid. Texas Election Code § 276.004
Utah: Employees are entitled to two paid hours of leave. While an employer can set the time, an employee’s wish to vote at the beginning or end of their shift must be granted. Utah Code § 20A-3-103
West Virginia: If they submit a written request at least 3 days before election day, workers can take up to three hours of paid leave. If the individual serves in a critical role, an employer may dictate when the leave is taken. West Virginia Code § 3-1-42
Wisconsin: Employees may take up to three hours of unpaid leave. Employers are not required to pay for the leave. Wisconsin Statutes § 6.76
Andy Przystanski is Content Marketing Manager at Namely, the all-in-one HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today's employees. Connect with Andy and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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