If the high turnout for early voting is any indicator, the number of voters going to the polls on Election Day on November 8, may be unprecedented. If voter turnout is as high as expected, employers can also expect that many of their workers will be waiting to vote in what could be very long lines.
Since nearly 60 percent of US states have some form of voting leave law, many employees may be entitled to what could be longer periods of leave from work in order to vote.
Leave, Notice and Other Requirements
State voting leave laws may require an employer to not only give employees leave from work to vote, but some states also grant leave for employees to serve as election officials, including:
Meanwhile, some state voting leave laws also may impose notice requirements on employees, including:
In these states, an employee must either request leave or give an employer notice of his or her intent to vote before Election Day. Whether or not voting leave is paid, and how much leave must be allowed, is also a matter of state law.
Although 21 states (plus Washington, DC), do not have laws requiring leave to vote, many of those states, such as Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, prohibit employers from using threats, intimidation, violence or employment termination to induce an employee to vote or not to vote. As a result, employers in affected states should refrain from disciplining or taking other adverse action against an employee for any political activity on Election Day.
Getting Ready for Election Day
To better prepare for Election Day and manage election leave issues, an employer should:
- Publish a written voting leave policy (and consider a Time Off to Vote Handbook Statement);
- Determine whether leave will be paid or unpaid. Remember, many states require employers to offer their employees a certain amount of time to vote, which may factor into an employer’s decision to pay for that time off;
- Require reasonable, advance notice of an employee’s intention to vote prior to Election Day. Inform employees of how many days’ notice they must give of their intention to vote;
- Define the supervisor’s role. Determine whether the supervisor has discretion to grant leave to those employees who wish to vote, and how many hours the employees may have in order to vote;
- Determine whether an employee is required to provide proof that he or she voted. This provision should be reserved and used only in cases in which the supervisor suspects that the employee has misused the voting leave benefit. An employer can specify what proof will satisfy this requirement; and
- Consider authorizing additional, unpaid time off in the event an employee requests more than the allotted time off for a legitimate reason (e.g., long lines at the polls or travel distance to/from the polling place). Moreover, the employer should consider its staffing needs when determining what time of day the leave will be granted.
Finally, consider training managers and supervisors on policies and procedures to follow when an employee requests leave to vote. Knowing both an employer’s and employee’s rights and obligations will help them better manage leave requests and work schedules.