Can employees take time off from work to vote?
| October 15, 2020
Voters have until Nov. 3, 2020, to cast their ballots in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. With the deadline imminent, employees who haven’t voted already may be wondering whether they can take time off from work to vote. As with many things employment-related, the answer boils down to state or local law and company policy.
Federal law does not mandate that employers give employees time off to vote; however, many states do. Depending on the state, the time off may be paid or unpaid.
The state may:
- Require employers to inform employees of their right to take voting leave.
- Designate the amount of time off — such as 2 or 3 consecutive hours — that employees must be given to vote.
- Permit employers to choose the hours during which employees can take voting leave.
- Allow employers to dock an employee’s pay if the employee took state-mandated voting leave but did not use the time for that purpose.
- Require employees to give their employer advance notice of their intention to take voting leave. The state might also say that employees must submit proof of voting (to their employer).
In some states, employers must offer voting leave only if the employee cannot make it to the polls before or after work. In addition, state law may impose penalties on employers that fire or punish employees for taking state-mandated voting leave.
Below are the states that mandate and do not mandate voting leave.
Since Washington, D.C. is entirely vote-by-mail, no mandatory time off is needed.
Oregon is a vote-by-mail state that offers the option to vote in person.
North Dakota does not require voting leave, but encourages employers to give it.
Ohio requires paid voting leave for salaried employees, but not for hourly, piecework, or commissioned employees.
Some local jurisdictions require voting leave. Therefore, employers and employees should be aware of any city or municipal ordinances mandating time off to vote.
Employees should check their employer’s time-off policies, as well.
Some employers provide voting leave on their own accord. Further, many employers voluntarily offer paid sick and vacation leave (or PTO) that employees can tap into if they need time off to vote. When voting leave is given at the employer’s discretion, employees must follow company policy when requesting the time off.
Under federal law, exempt employees must receive their full day’s salary/pay when they take a partial day off from work; however, the missed time can be deducted from their PTO balance. If they have no more PTO and take a partial day off, their pay still cannot be docked — because exempt employees must receive their full day’s pay if they perform any work for the day.
So, if you’re an exempt employee and you take a few hours off from the workday to vote, under federal law, you must receive your full day’s pay — though your employer may deduct the missed time from your PTO balance. But if you take the entire day off to vote, your employer can dock your pay (for the full day missed). Alternatively, your employer can use your available PTO to cover the full day taken.
On the other hand, nonexempt employees are paid based on hours worked. So, if you’re nonexempt, time off to vote is likely unpaid — unless you’re entitled to paid voting leave under state/local law, company policy, or an employment contract, or unless you have PTO available to cover the time off.
For more information on voting leave, contact your human resources department or state labor office.
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