In many states, voting in the electoral process takes precedence over working.
The majority of states have laws that balance the voting rights of the employees and the interests of the employers. These laws have a spectrum of influence, from the efforts required on the behalf of the employer to civil penalties for preventing necessary voting time.
Many of these state laws affirm that employers may indicate when employees can take time off, provided they do not interfere with the employee’s lunch or break time. In most laws, the time off occurs at the beginning or the end of the employee’s shift. Select states merely require employers to create a schedule that allows employees time to vote. For more information, consider the topics below.
Adequate Time to Vote
State laws that mandate employee time off from work have time specifications. An employee whose normal shift takes place during polling hours, without adequate time before or after his or her shift to vote, is eligible for one to four hours off, depending on the state.
Adequate time off may be specified as one to three hours between when polling locations are open and when the employee’s normal shift begins/ends. For example, if a New Mexico employee’s shift begins two hours after polls open or ends three hours before polls close, they are not entitled to additional time off from their employer.
Job Security and Pay
Of the 31 states that mention taking time off to vote, only 23 states either require employers to pay employees for the duration required to vote (up to a specific time) or prohibit employers from docking employees. For example, Ohio’s law prevents employers from firing or threatening to fire an employee for taking time off to vote and establishes that employers cannot dock salary employees.
Ohio law only requires employers to pay salary not hourly employees. In states like Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming, employees are only paid time off if they show proof of voting.
In Massachusetts, the law allowing employees time to vote is only for those in manufacturing, mechanical and mercantile businesses. Also, while some states offer employees a specified amount of hours to vote (four in Kentucky), other states (like Minnesota and Texas) do not have a defined time.
States That Require Prior Notification
Some states require employees to notify their employer about needed voting time one to 10 days before an election day.
The 13 states that require prior notification are: Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Two states, Iowa and West Virginia, require prior notification in writing.
States Without Laws for Voting and Missing Work
A portion of the United States does not have any laws that require employers to permit for time off.
North Dakota’s policy encourages employers to establish a program for granting employees time to vote, but it is voluntarily. New Hampshire considers employees who work on election days eligible for absentee ballots.
The 21 locations that do not have laws pertaining to employee time off for voting are: Connecticut, the District of Colombia, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.