It’s Election Time: What Are the Rules Again?

Contributed by Beverly Alfon & Carly Zuba

Election day is around the corner – Tuesday, November 6th.  It is time to dust off and review company policies regarding employee time off for voting. 

The legal requirements – how much time the employer has to give, when the employee must take the time off, and whether that time off is paid or unpaid – depends on what state your company is operating in.  Here is a sampling of state laws:

Illinois (Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/17-15)

  • The employee may have up to 2 hours’ leave if work hours begin less than 2 hours after opening of polls and end less than 2 hours before polls close. 
  • It is illegal to penalize employees who take time off to vote – including any reduction in compensation due to time off for voting.
  • The employee must request time off before election day.
  • The employer may select the time taken for voting.   

California (Elections Code § 14000)

  • The employee may have an amount of leave time that, when added to the voting time available to him or her outside of working hours, will allow the employee sufficient time to vote (unless the employee is able to vote during nonworking time). 
  • The employee must provide notice 2 working days before the election if, on the 3rd working day prior to the election, the employee knows or has reason to believe he or she will need time off in order to vote.  
  • Time must be taken at the beginning or end of the work shift, whichever allows the most time for voting and the least time off from work, unless otherwise mutually agreed. 
  • No more than 2 hours of time taken off for voting shall be without loss of pay.

Florida (Election Code §104.081)

  • It is illegal for an employer to discharge or threaten to discharge an employee who votes in an election or who refuses to vote.
  • Some local ordinances require unpaid time off.

New York (Election Law§3-110)

  • If an employee does not have sufficient time to vote outside of working time, s/he may take off working time so that, when added to the employee’s available time outside of working hours, it will allow the employee time to vote.
  • Up to two (2) hours of that working time taken to vote must be paid. 
  • However, if the employee has four (4) consecutive hours to vote before or after his/her work shift, it is considered sufficient time and the employee is not eligible for such leave. 
  • The employee must provide notice of leave at least two (2) days, but not more than ten (10) days, prior to the election. 
  • The employer can designate the hours available for leave.  Leave must be given at the beginning or end of the work shift, unless otherwise agreed.

Your company policy may be more generous than these state law requirements.  Notably, some state courts recognize wrongful termination claims where an employer discharges an employee for taking time off of work to vote, so it is important for employers to be aware of their requirements under the law.

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid any violations of applicable election laws and minimize disruptions in the workplace.  To that end,  (1) be familiar with poll opening and closing times in your state so that you have the information that you need to manage time off requests for voting; and, (2) as soon as possible, remind employees of your company’s expectations with respect to time off for voting.  This reminder could take the form of a company-wide memorandum or through posting on your company bulletin board. 

If you have employees working in states outside of those mentioned above, you can access state-by-state information about voting time leave laws on this map.