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State Laws Guarantee Time Off to Vote

A woman voting in a voting booth with an american flag.

​With Election Day coming up on Nov. 8, employers need to stay aware of state laws that guarantee workers time off to vote.

There's no federal law requiring employers to give workers time off to vote, but 30 states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to Deidra Nguyen, an attorney with Littler in San Diego. The state laws vary in their details, but most of them provide two to four hours of leave, depending on the employee's work schedule.

"It requires a bit of foresight and advance thinking," said Richard Greenberg, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in New York City.

Sometimes, employers need to pay attention to exact voting hours in order to provide enough time for workers to get to the polling station and cast a ballot. For example, Arizona's law requires an employer to give an employee three hours of time off if there are less than three consecutive hours between the opening of polls and the beginning of the employee's regular shift, or between the end of the employee's regular shift and the closing of polls. Among the states, "there's no consistency in when polls close," Greenberg said.

For remote workers, be sure to comply with the law of the state where they are located. "If someone is working full-time remotely, you need to be aware of the law where they are working," Greenberg said.

Multistate employers need to decide whether to have a local strategy based on statewide rules or a national strategy for all workers. "There's a lot of variation here," Nguyen said.

Communicate in Advance

In Alabama, California and New York, employees must give their employers advance notice of their need to take time off to vote. Meanwhile, in California, New York and the District of Columbia, employers must post a notice reminding workers about their right to take time off to vote. "The notice component is so important," Nguyen said.

Don't forget to make any necessary changes to your voting leave policy when you update your employee handbook, Nguyen advised.

Employers may incur some costs in terms of lost productivity on that day. Plus, some states like Alaska, California, Colorado and Illinois mandate that the leave be paid.

"There's a financial impact there," Nguyen said, but the cost "is on the smaller side of the spectrum."

Company Culture

Depending on their executive leadership, some companies consider it part of their culture and values to encourage all of their workers to vote. "It's a balance of understanding what the law is and thinking about your goals and culture," Greenberg said. "I never see a downside to encouraging people to vote. An employer should never be telling people how to vote."

If you allow employees to take time off to vote where it's not required, "you've bought some goodwill with some employees by going above the law," he added.

"A lot of employers are struggling to attract and retain talent," Nguyen noted. Time off on Election Day "might be an easy way to spruce up the benefits offering for employees."

State legislatures enacted voting leave laws in order to encourage more people to vote. Voter turnout in the United States is typically around 60 percent in presidential elections and 40 percent in midterm elections, a much lower rate compared to other countries, according to FairVote, a research and advocacy organization based in Takoma Park, Md. In the 2020 presidential election, 66.8 percent of U.S. citizens 18 years and older voted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The time off work "definitely makes someone's life easier. It makes it more convenient" to vote, Greenberg said.

State Laws

Here's a list of jurisdictions that require time off for voting:

  • Alabama.
  • Alaska.
  • Arizona.
  • Arkansas.
  • California.
  • Colorado.
  • Connecticut.
  • District of Columbia.
  • Georgia.
  • Illinois.
  • Iowa.
  • Kansas.
  • Kentucky.
  • Maryland.
  • Massachusetts.
  • Minnesota.
  • Missouri.
  • Nebraska.
  • Nevada.
  • New Mexico.
  • New York.
  • North Dakota.
  • Ohio.
  • Oklahoma.
  • South Dakota.
  • Tennessee.
  • Texas.
  • Utah.
  • West Virginia.
  • Wisconsin.
  • Wyoming.
SHRM offers resources and a sample voting leave policy for Election Day.


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