This year’s election is poised to be like none in history. The nation’s leading experts are recommending continued social distancing well past Election Day, which may prompt many Americans to cast their vote using mail-in ballots.
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But many Americans are also expected to show up at the polls on November 3 to cast their votes in person.
It’s important to honor your employees’ right to vote in whatever way they deem appropriate—whether that’s mailing in their vote, voting ahead of time (some states have an early voting period that allows citizens to cast their vote at their convenience prior to November 3), or voting in person on Election Day.
But when it comes to voting, what are your requirements as an employer? Do you need to give your employees time off to vote?
As an employer, are you required to give your employees time off to vote?
There are no federal laws that require employers to give their employees time off to vote—but many states do have laws that require it.
How much time you’ll need to give your employees off to vote—and whether that time is paid or unpaid—varies by state. But during this election year, you may want to consider offering your employees more than the minimum amount of time off your state requires; because of COVID-related safety precautions, lines and wait times at the polls are expected to be significantly longer than years past. As such, the number of hours an employee needed to successfully vote during previous elections just may not be enough time this year.
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|
|Alabama||Yes||Unpaid||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 you can specify 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.|
|California||Yes||Paid||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.
|Colorado||Yes||Paid||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.
|District of Columbia|
Yes (not yet effective)
|Paid||While not yet funded by the District of Columbia’s government, the Leave to Vote Amendment Act of 2020, which was approved by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in April, is expected to take effect prior to the 2020 Presidential Election. The law required employers to provide up to two hours of paid leave to vote.|
|Georgia||Yes||Unpaid||If an employee gives “reasonable notice,” employers are required to give two hours off to vote—unless polls are open for two hours before or after their work day. The employer can specify the hours.|
|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, though employers can specify the hours.|
|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 the hours they take off.|
|Kansas||Yes||Paid||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.
However, you can give them less time off as long as they have two hours to vote before polls close. For example, if your employee typically gets off 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 the hours they take off to vote, but it can’t be during a regular lunch break.
|Kentucky||Yes||Unpaid||Employees who ask for voting leave before Election Day are required to be given “reasonable time,” which is to be no less than four hours, to vote. The employer may specify the hours.|
|Maryland||Yes||Paid||Employers are required to provide two paid hours for employees to vote if the polls aren’t open for two consecutive hours before or after their work day. Employees are required to show proof of voting or attempting to vote.|
|Massachusetts||Yes||Unpaid||If they ask for 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.|
|Minnesota||Yes||Paid||Employers have to give employees paid “time necessary” to vote.|
|Missouri||Yes||Paid||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.
Your employees must provide notice by at least the day before, but you can specify the hours.
|Nebraska||Yes||Paid||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, you only have to give them one hour off work.
The leave is paid if your employee gives advance notice, and you’re allowed to specify which hours they take off.
|Nevada||Yes||Paid||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:
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.|
|Oklahoma||Yes||Paid||If the polls aren’t open for three hours before or after the employee’s work day, they’re legally required to get 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 the day before, and they must 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 you can’t vote in person due to work, you 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.|
|Tennessee||Yes||Paid||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 elections.
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.|
|Utah||Yes||Paid||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 it 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.
|West Virginia||Yes||Paid||If your employees don’t have three non-work hours to get to the polls, you have to give up to three paid hours of leave. Employees have to provide written notice 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.
|Wisconsin||Yes||Unpaid||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 they hours off.
|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 help your employees find time to get to the polls by creating your own voting leave policy. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests offering up to two hours of paid time off to vote if your employee doesn’t have sufficient time to do so outside of work hours.
What about 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.
With Election Day coming up quickly, the United States is facing a poll worker shortage—and, in response, a number of large employers in the United States (including Old Navy, Facebook, and Tory Burch) are giving their employees paid time off to work the polls on Election Day.
While giving your employees an extra day of paid time off might not be possible for your business, if you want to encourage their participation in a historic election year—and help to solve the shortage of poll workers—you may want to consider allowing them to take a day of unpaid leave.
Even if you don’t give paid time off, make 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.