They may not command the attention of a presidential election year, but midterm elections are very important! The results of this November’s election are poised to define the national political agenda for the next two years. Early data shows that voter turnout so far has exceeded the already-high midterm election turnout in 2018. With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, many voters plan to vote in-person, either early or on Election Day.
As an employer, it’s important to honor your employees’ right to vote however they choose–whether by voting by mail, voting early (in states with an early voting period), or in-person on Election Day. But what are your obligations as an employer when it comes to voting? Are you required to give your employees time off to vote?
As an employer, are you required to give your employees time off to vote?
There is currently no federal law requiring employers to provide paid time off for employees to vote. A bill to this effect, aptly named the Time Off to Vote Act, was introduced in the House earlier this year, but that bill has not been voted on nor signed into law. In the event it is passed and signed into law, the Time Off to Vote Act would require that employers provide a minimum of two consecutive hours of paid leave to any employee to vote in a federal election. But, again, this bill is not yet law and will not affect your compliance requirements for 2022.
What will affect compliance this year are specific state laws in the states where you operate your business. There are certain states which have passed laws that require employers to provide leave for employees who wish to vote. Some states have no such law, some require employers provide paid leave for voting, and some don’t specify whether the leave must be paid or unpaid. It is all a bit confusing– which is why we’ve broken it down state-by-state so that you can find the regulations applicable to your business.
What are the voting leave laws for each state?
Here are the voting leave laws for each state:
|State||Voting leave law?||Paid or unpaid?||Details|
Employers are required to give eligible employees an hour of unpaid leave to vote. Employees are eligible if their work start time is within two hours of the opening of the polls or their end time is less than one hour before the closing of the polls.
Employees are required to give “reasonable notice” to use the leave, and the employer specifies which hour they’re allowed to take off to vote.
|Alaska||Yes||Paid||Employers are required to give employees the time they need to vote— unless their shift starts two hours after polls open or ends two hours before polls close.|
|Arizona||Yes||Paid||If an employee gives you notice before Election Day, you have to give them three hours off to vote unless the polls are open for three hours before or after their shift. You can specify the hours they take off to vote.|
|Arkansas||Yes||Unpaid||Employers are required to schedule their employees’ work hours on election days so the employees have time to vote.|
Employers are required to give up to two paid hours off if an employee can’t make it to a polling place outside of work hours. Eligible employees can take as much time as they need to vote, but you only have to pay for two of those hours.
To take the voting leave, employees are required to give you notice at least two days before Election Day. You can require the time to be taken at the beginning or end of their work shift.
You must also post a notice at least 10 days before an election so your employees know of their right to voting leave.
Employers must allow employees to take up to two hours of paid leave to vote if the polls are open for less than three hours before or after the employee’s work hours. If employees want to take voting leave, they must inform you before Election Day.
You can specify the hours they get off, though your employees have the right to request it be at the beginning or end of their work day.
|Connecticut||Yes||Unpaid||Employees are eligible for two hours of unpaid leave to vote. Employees must inform their employers no later than two days prior to the election if they intend to request leave to vote.|
|District of Columbia||Yes||Paid|| |
Employers must provide up to two hours of paid leave for employees to vote. Employers are also required to post a notice for employees informing them of their right to paid time off to vote.
Employers may require that employees provide advance notice of their intention to take leave. You may also specify when an employee may take voting leave.
If an employee gives reasonable notice, employers are required to give employees up to two hours off to vote—unless polls are open for two hours before or after their work day.
Employers may choose the hours for voting leave.
|Hawaii||No||Hawaii conducts voting entirely by mail. All registered voters receive a ballot in the mail prior to election day.|
|Illinois||Yes||Paid||Employers must give employees two hours off to vote if polls are not open for two hours before or after the employee’s work day. Employees must provide notice at least a day before Election Day. Employers may choose the two hour period in which an employee has paid time off to vote.|
|Iowa||Yes||Paid||Employees can receive three hours off to vote if there aren’t three consecutive hours where polls are open before or after their shift. They’re required to provide employers written notice at least a day before the election, and employers can designate which hours they take off to vote.|
Employers are required to give employees up to two hours of time off to vote unless polls are open two hours before or after their work day.
You can give employees less than two hours off to vote, as long as they have two consecutive hours to vote before polls close. For example, if your employee typically gets off work at 6 pm and polls close at 7 pm, you only have to give them one hour off. Letting them go at 5 pm gives them two hours to vote.
You can also specify which hours they take off to vote, but it can’t be during a regular lunch break.
Employers must provide a minimum of four hours off for employees to vote. Employees must request leave to vote at least one day prior to Election Day.
You can choose the 4+ hour period in which an employee is excused to vote.
Kentucky also requires that employers provide up to one day of unpaid leave for employees to work as election officers (poll workers).
|Maryland||Yes||Paid||Employers are required to provide up to two paid hours of leave for employees to vote if the polls aren’t open for two consecutive hours before or after their work day. Employees are required to provide employers with proof of voting or attempting to vote.|
|Massachusetts||Yes||Unpaid||If they request voting leave, employees in the manufacturing, mechanical, and mercantile (retail) industries do not have to work during the first two hours that the polls are open. The law does not include provisions for employees in other industries.|
|Minnesota||Yes||Paid||Employers must give employees paid “time necessary” to vote.|
Employers must give employees three hours of paid leave to vote if the polls aren’t open for three consecutive hours before or after their work day.
Employees must request leave at least the day before the election, but employers can specify the hours when an employee may leave to vote.
Your employees are entitled to up to two hours off for voting unless the polls open two hours before or close two hours after their work day.
You can also give less than two hours as long as they have a window of two hours to vote before polls close. For example, if the polls are open for one hour after their shift ends, you only have to give them one hour off of work.
The leave is paid if your employee gives advance notice, and you’re allowed to specify which hours they take off.
If an employee can’t vote before or after work hours and they request leave ahead of time, they’re entitled to paid time off.
You can calculate the amount of time off to vote that they get by using this formula:
a) If the distance between your office and their polling place is two miles or less, they get one hour.
b) If it’s between 2 and 10 miles, they get two hours.
c) If it’s further than 10 miles, they get 3 hours.
You can choose when your employee can take their voting leave time.
|New Hampshire||No||Any employee who can’t make it to the polls because of an employment obligation can vote by absentee ballot.|
|New Mexico||Yes||Paid|| |
If polls aren’t open for at least two hours before your employee’s work day starts or for at least three hours after, they are entitled to two paid hours off.
You can choose which hours they take off to vote.
|New York||Yes||Paid|| |
If an employee requests voting leave between 2-10 days before the election, you must give them time off to vote— unless polls are open for four or more hours before or after their shift. You can decide whether they take the leave at the beginning or end of their work day, or you can agree on another time with your employee.
Up to two of those hours are paid, but your employee can take as many hours as needed to vote.
You must also post a notice at least 10 days before an election so your employees know of their right to voting leave.
|North Dakota||No||While there’s no official time off, state laws specifically encourage employers to establish a program that lets employees be absent for voting when their work schedule conflicts with when the polls are open.|
|Ohio||Yes||Paid for salaried employees, unpaid for others.||Employers are required to let their employees take “a reasonable amount of time to vote.” But employers are only required to pay for this leave for salaried employees.|
If the polls aren’t open for three hours before or after the employee’s work day, you must provide two hours of paid time to vote. (Employees may get more time off if their polling location is so far away that two hours isn’t enough time for them to vote.)
Employees must give notice at least three days before Election Day. They must also provide proof of voting. You can designate the hours they take off, and you are also allowed to rearrange your employee’s schedule so they have at least three hours before or after their work day to vote.
|South Carolina||No||If a person can’t vote in person due to work, they may vote via absentee ballot.|
|South Dakota||Yes||Paid||You have to give your employees two paid hours to go vote if the polls aren’t open for two consecutive hours before or after their work day. An employer can choose which hours of the workday an employee is granted leave to exercise their vote.|
Your employees are entitled to up to three hours to vote if polls aren’t open for three hours before or after their work day. They must request the time off before noon on the day before the election.
Employers can choose when their employees take the hours.
|Texas||Yes||Paid||There’s not a specific time period given, but employers must let employees have paid time off to vote if polls aren’t open for two consecutive hours outside of their work day.|
Employees who don’t have three non-work hours when the polls are open can get two paid hours off to vote. They must request voting leave at least a day before the election.
Employers can designate the hours used for voting leave, but if an employee requests the voting time to be at the beginning or end of a shift, the employer must grant it.
|Washington||No||The state of Washington conducts voting entirely by mail. All registered voters receive a ballot in the mail prior to election day.|
|West Virginia||Yes||Paid|| |
If your employees don’t have three non-work hours to get to the polls, you have to provide up to three paid hours of voting leave. Employees have to provide written notice of their intention to take voting leave at least three days in advance. If they take the leave and do not vote, the hours will be unpaid.
Employers in certain industries are allowed to specify which hours their employees can take off.
Employers are required to give employees up to three consecutive hours off to vote, but they don’t have to pay employees for this time.
Employees have to give notice before election day, and employers can designate which hours they may take off to vote.
|Wyoming||Yes||Paid||If your employees don’t have at least three consecutive non-work hours to vote, they’re entitled to one paid hour of leave to vote, excluding meal break times. You can choose when they take this hour.|
What if my state doesn’t have a voting leave law?
If your state has no voting leave laws, you can still help your employees find time to get to the polls by creating your own voting leave policy. Be sure to document and communicate this policy to your employees well ahead of time.
What are the rules regarding poll workers?
Some employees may want to take their civic duty a step further this Election Day and not only vote, but volunteer to work the polls.
In that situation, are you required to give your employees time off to volunteer as poll workers?
There are a few states that require employers to grant their employees unpaid leave if they’re selected as a poll worker (for example, in Wisconsin, the law requires employers to grant unpaid leave to any employees serving as an election official for the entire 24-hour period of Election Day, as long as the employee gives the employer at least seven days’ notice). But even if your state doesn’t require you to give your employees time off to work the polls, you may want to consider giving them the day off.
The recent rise in domestic extremism presents an urgent threat to our democratic process. As was the case in 2020, law enforcement officials are warning about violence against poll workers and other election officials. Now more than ever, it’s important that employers do our part to support the health of our democracy– by ensuring that employees are able to vote, and by allowing them to participate in the election as poll workers.
If you’re unable to provide paid time off to vote, be sure you’re not impeding your employees’ ability to vote. Most states ban employers from penalizing or firing their employees for taking time off to vote, even if the state has no voting leave laws.