As a small business owner, you may offer types of paid or unpaid time off to employees. But when election day rolls around, do you give employees time off to vote? Read on to learn about offering time off to vote, state requirements, and whether you can refuse voting leave.
Giving employees time off to vote
You may feel responsible for encouraging employees to vote. However, you might not be able to afford to give employees time off for voting leave.
Federal law does not require employers to give employees time off to vote. However, the majority of states have time off for voting laws. Some states may also require employers to offer employee compensation for voting time, while others do not.
State laws on time off to vote
Time off for voting rights varies from state-to-state. Understand what voting time off laws and policies your state has in place.
Thirty states require time off to vote. Some of these states also require that you provide paid time off to vote.
Twenty states do not have any time off to vote laws. Some of the states that do not require time off to vote include Idaho, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia.
In some cases, there could be a legitimate reason why a state does not offer time off to vote. For example, Oregon is a vote-by-mail state that gives citizens the option of voting in-person. Since many individuals in Oregon cast their vote via mail, the state does not have laws regarding voting time off.
Other states, like North Dakota, may not have a law for time off to vote. But, they do recommend employers give employees time to vote.
Some states require employers to display a time off to vote poster. In California, employers must visibly post voting leave rules 10 days before the election.
If your state does not require time off to vote, consider offering it to employees. Regardless of whether or not you opt for paid time off, giving employees time off to vote shows you care. And, it sets an example to employees to fulfill their civic responsibility to vote.
Time off laws by state
Depending on the state, hours usually vary anywhere from one to three hours of time off. For example, Colorado state law requires employees to receive up to two hours off to vote.
Other states, like Alaska, may not specify a time frame. States with no given time period typically list the amount of time as a “reasonable amount of time” to vote.
Review the chart of states and their requirements for time off to vote below:
|State||Time Off to Vote?||Time Allowed to Vote||Paid/Unpaid|
|Alaska||Yes||As long as it reasonably takes to vote||Paid|
|Arkansas||Yes||As long as it reasonably takes to vote||Unpaid|
|District of Columbia||No||N/A||N/A|
|Massachusetts||Yes||First two hours after polls open||Unpaid|
|Minnesota||Yes||As long as it reasonably takes to vote||Paid|
|Mississippi||Yes||As long as it reasonably takes to vote||N/A|
|Nevada||Yes||One to three hours||Paid|
|New Mexico||Yes||Two hours||Paid|
|New York||Yes||Two hours||Paid|
|Ohio||Yes||As long as it reasonably takes to vote||Paid for salaried employees and unpaid for hourly, commissioned, or piecework employees|
|South Dakota||Yes||Two hours||Paid|
|Texas||Yes||As long as it reasonably takes to vote||Paid|
|West Virginia||Yes||Three hours||Paid|
*Some states may have certain exceptions or additional requirements. Check with your state for more information.
Refusing voting leave
Prohibiting time off to vote can be detrimental to a business. Some states may issue penalties for refusing voting leave to employees, such as fines.
Even if your state does not have penalties, refusing time off for voting can tarnish your business’s reputation. Your employees and community might not agree with your decision. And, it may impact the way others view you and your business.
To learn more about your employer responsibilities and time off to vote laws, check with your state.
Looking for a simple way to track employees’ time off for voting? Patriot’s online time and attendance software lets employees clock-in and clock-out online. And, the software integrates with our payroll software. Try both for free today!
This article has been updated from its original publication date of October 17, 2016.
This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.