If you’re wondering whether or not your employer must give you time off from work to vote in U.S. elections, such as in the Clinton vs. Trump presidential election on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, it depends on whether or not the state in which you work has enacted a law with employee “time off to vote” provisions.
There is no federal law that requires employers to give employees work time off to vote in elections. However, most states do have such laws, generally referred to as “state voting leave laws” or “state election leave laws”. The laws typically cover both private- and public-sector employees.
Although voting leave laws vary by state, they generally require that employers give employees time off from work to vote only if the polls are not open for a sufficient number of hours before or after employees are scheduled to work. How many hours are deemed to be sufficient for employees to vote outside of work hours typically ranges from two to three under the laws.
Some state voting leave laws require that employers grant employees paid time off to vote, if there isn’t sufficient time before or after employees are scheduled to work. To get paid, employees might have to provide proof from their voting places that they cast their ballots.
Additionally, some voting leave laws require employees to give reasonable advanced notice to their employers in requesting work time off to vote, while some permit employers to specify when their employees may take time off to vote.
In the states that have voting leave laws, employers might face criminal charges, fines and even jail sentences by refusing to grant employees time off to vote as required by the laws, or by discharging or otherwise penalizing employees for exercising their voting rights under the laws. In fact, discharging employees for reasonably exercising their voting rights could constitute wrongful termination.
In the few states that have no voting leave laws per se, related laws or regulations might be on the books that generally prohibit employers from interfering with employee voting rights.
Alternately or additionally, even though federal law does not specifically grant work time off to vote, it does generally prohibit employers in all states from interfering with employee voting rights. That’s because federal law prohibits anyone from interfering with citizens’ voting rights, including their employers.
The courts might interpret such laws or regulations to mean that employers must honor reasonable employee requests for work time off to vote, or else suffer the legal consequences of interfering with employee voting rights. The same goes under state or local public policy.
To discover if your work state has a voting leave law (or a related law or regulation) and, if so, whether or not your employer must give you time off to vote and pay you too, refer to the article “Decision 2016: Do Employees Get Time Off to Vote?” published by HR Legalist.
Consult an attorney for legal advice regarding employer interference with employee voting rights.