As we near the end of this election season, employers should be ready for requests from employees for time off to vote. Polling places are expected to be crowded and employers in many states must accommodate their employees' right to vote if an employee's work schedule prevents that person from going to the polls. (Even in states where it is not legally mandated, considering this election year, and the general feelings around fundamental right to vote, all employers should strongly consider a plan to enable employees to vote if at all possible.)
Take, for example, California employers. Under California Elections Code Section 14000, employees may be entitled to up to 2 hours of paid time off if their work schedule is such that the employee cannot make it to the polls. That time off shall only be at the beginning or end of a shift – as determined by the employer as to whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from the regular working shift.
California employers are required to post a notice not later than 10 days before a statewide election that sets forth the provisions of Section 14000 and notifies employees that they have the right to request paid time off if their work schedule prevents them from casting their vote on Election Day. If the employee on the third working day prior to the day of election knows or has reason to believe that time off will be necessary to be able to vote on election day, the employee shall give the employer at least two working days' notice that time off for voting is desired.
For employers who do not already have this notice posted, the California Secretary of State has sample notices available in multiple languages on its website: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/time-vote-notices/ It would be wise to get the posting up right away.
In effect, the statute requires employers to give an employee up to two hours off to vote with pay if the employee does not have sufficient time to vote. The polls are open in California from 7 AM–8 PM. If a voter is in line by 8 PM, they are allowed to vote.
While the California polling hours make the need for paid time off unlikely for many businesses, for those employers who have employees scheduled to work long shifts or at workplaces far from the employees' polling places on Election Day, employers should be ready to accommodate requests for time off for voting. And for employers outside of California, check your local laws on time off (either paid or unpaid) on Election Day or check in with legal counsel to ensure you don't end up with nasty surprises after the election (that have nothing to do with the candidates or the results!).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.