A couple of years ago, around this time, I posted about the ins and outs of whether employees are entitled to time off to vote. Once again, we’re coming up on an election, and I thought it would be helpful to return to this subject, as employers will want to be compliant with any applicable laws related to employee voting.
One of our fundamental rights as citizens is our ability to vote. Interestingly, there is no corresponding federal statute mandating that employers provide time off for their employees to exercise this right. While many states have laws requiring employers give their employees time to vote during typical working hours, North Carolina has no such law.
Nonetheless, responsible employers should work with their employees, so that they are able to vote and fulfill their civic duties. If you do not have a formal policy – and most do not, you should still inform your employees of the company’s general expectations so that time keeping, leave policies, and work flow are not upset, particularly for non-exempt employees. Here are a few examples of how you might address time off to vote:
- Encourage/require voting either before or after regularly assigned work hours
- Allow managers to grant a reasonable period of time for employees to vote throughout the day
- Require the use of PTO/Vacation Time
- Grant employees 2-3 hours of additional “voting leave”
- Open or close late or at lunch and require employees to use that time to vote
It is also important to think through the company’s policy for employees who take the entire day off to serve as election officials at polling sites. Poll workers also create an interesting query for some public employers, as the employer may end up paying the employee for both paid leave and a poll worker stipend. It also raises interesting timekeeping, pay and First Amendment questions if for example, poll workers are needed and a public employer wants to encourage, or “reassign” the employees to serve as poll workers. These questions are certainly worth thinking through in order to ensure an appropriate plan of action.
Another recommendation is that multistate employers familiarize themselves with the states that have specific voting leave laws. In some states, for example, employers are required to offer reasonable time off to vote without penalty, threats, or intimidation. Some laws also require reasonable notice of the time the employee plans to take off, and some states impose penalties for non-compliance.
For more information on time off to vote policies and other compliance areas within employment law, please contact me at the Forrest Firm. We enjoy our work in helping employers stay compliant at state and federal levels, as well as helping to create fair, competitive workplaces.