Employee Voting Rights
As Election Day approaches, employers should be aware of employee rights with respect to taking time off from work to vote. As a general rule, employees must have sufficient time to vote on Election Day, and employers should make every effort to be as flexible as possible.
Although voting leave rights are state-specific, the common consideration is the individual employee’s scheduled work hours, as compared to the times during which the polls are open. If an employee will not have adequate time to vote either before or after work, then the employer is generally required to allow the employee to take time off from work in order to go to the polls to vote. The mandatory requirement for voting leave in some states is simply that the employee be given a “reasonable” amount of time off to vote, while other states specify that employees must have anywhere from 2-4 hours. Whether the employee’s voting leave of absence is paid varies from state to state.
As extreme as it may seem, many states levy sizeable fines on employers who fail to comply with the state’s relevant voting leave law, and some states even impose jail time for interfering with an employee’s right to vote.
Significantly, both California and New York require employers to post, prior to Election Day, specific notices in the workplace regarding employee leave voting rights. The deadline for New York employers is Tuesday, October 23, 2012. California employers should post the California notice by Friday, October 26, 2012.
Because voting leave laws vary from state to state, employers should consult with counsel to ensure that they are abiding by all relevant local requirements.