Even though it happens every four-years, it still tends to dominate the media, culture, and watercooler.  We are, of course, talking about the presidential election.  Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, but citizens have been voting in some states since late September.  As the airwaves become inundated with political ads, telephones get overwhelmed with robocalls, and Facebook feeds get populated with well-reasoned, respectful and dispassionate disagreements (we wish), it is important that employers know what their obligations are when it comes to giving employees time to vote.

Companies large and small (including Dickinson Wright PLLC) have committed to giving its employees time to participate in the democratic process. Time To Vote, a business-led, nonpartisan coalition, recently announced that over 1,500 companies have made the decision to give its employees a paid holiday or paid time off on Election Day.  Although these efforts are voluntary, states across the country require that employers give their employees time off to vote.  Unfortunately, each state’s laws are different and varyingly complex.  For example, while Ohio employers must allow their employees to take a “reasonable amount” of unpaid time off to vote on Election Day, Nevada’s time-off requirements depend on how far an employee lives from his or her polling location.  California employers must provide up to two hours of paid time off for an employee to vote if the employee’s normal schedule does not allow a sufficient amount of time for the employee to vote, while Arizona and Tennessee guarantee up to three hours of paid time off.  In Texas, although employers are required to give paid leave, the law does not specify how much time employers must give, and companies are not required to give any time off if an employee has two non-consecutive hours available while the polls are open.  Florida, Michigan and Washington, D.C., do not require employers to provide any voting leave to their employees at all.  Below is a 50-state survey (plus the District of Columbia) of voting leave laws:

Alabama 1 hour unpaid unless the employee’s shift commences at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least one hour prior to the closing of the polls.  Employee must provide reasonable notice, but proof of voting is not required.
Alaska “Sufficient” time, unless employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open.  Reasonable notice and proof of voting are not required.
Arizona Up to 3 hours of paid time off unless the employee has 3 consecutive hours during which the polls are open and he or she is not at work.  Employees should give advance notice of their plans to leave early or arrive late.  Proof of voting is not required. Supervisors face fines of up to $2,500 if they block someone from voting, and the company itself can be fined as much as $20,000.
Arkansas Unpaid leave, but employers must adjust employees’ schedules to allow employee time to vote.  Reasonable notice and proof of voting are not required.
California Up to 2 hours paid at the beginning or end of an employee’s shift if the employee does not have sufficient nonworking time in which to vote. 2-days’ advance notice of voting day plans is suggested.  Employers are also required to post a notice of employees’ rights to take time off to vote.
Colorado Up to 2 hours paid unless employee is not scheduled to work for at least 3 hours during which the polls are open. Employer may decide which hours (although if employee requests that the hours occur at the beginning or end of the shift the employer must allow this).  Reasonable notice and proof of voting is not required.  Companies who bar a worker from voting could lose their corporate charter.
Connecticut Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Delaware Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Florida Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Georgia Up to 2 hours unpaid unless the employee’s workday begins at least 2 hours after polls open or ends 2 hours before polls close. Employer may decide hours and “reasonable notice” of leave request is requested.  No penalties for non-compliance.
Hawaii Up to 2 consecutive hours paid unless employee has 2 non-work hours during which the polls are open.  No notice, but proof of voting is required.
Idaho Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Illinois Up to 2 hours paid for general election and special elections only, providing the employee’s workday begins or ends less than 2 hours after or before the polls open or close. The employer may decide what hours and the employee must give notice at least 1 day in advance.  Proof of voting is not required.
Indiana Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Iowa Paid leave required to an amount that, when added to the employee’s nonworking time that the polls are open, totals three consecutive hours while the polls are open, unless an employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. The employer can specify the hours and the employee must give written notice of their intention to take time off. Proof of voting is not required.
Kansas Up to 2 hours paid unless employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open.  Employer may decide what hours, but not during regular meal break.  No notice of proof of voting is required.
Kentucky At least 4 hours unpaid on election day or during early voting. Employee must notify of leave 1 day in advance and employer may decide what hours.  Employee who takes off but does not vote may be disciplined.
Louisiana Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Maine Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Maryland 2 hours paid unless employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employee may be required to show proof of voting.  Advance notice is required.
Massachusetts 2 hours unpaid is required for employees in manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile establishments. Employees must request leave in advance.  Proof of voting is not required.
Michigan Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Minnesota Employers have to provide employees with “sufficient” time to vote, paid.
Mississippi Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Missouri 3 hours paid unless employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employer can decide what hours and employees must give advance notice of leave and show proof of voting.
Montana Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Nebraska Up to 2 hours paid unless employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employer may decide what hours and employee must give notice in advance or on election day.  Proof of voting is not required
Nevada If it is not practical to vote before or after work, employee may take time off based on distance from polling place.  If the poll is less than 2 miles from employees home, he/she may take 1 hour of paid leave; 2-10 miles, he/she may take 2 hours of paid leave; and, more than 10 miles, he/she may take 3 hours of paid leave.  Employee must give notice prior to Election Day, but proof of voting is not required.
New Hampshire Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
New Jersey Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
New Mexico Up to 2 hours paid unless employee begins work 2 hours after the polls open or finishes work 3 or more hours before the polls close. Employer may decide what hours.
New York 2 hours paid and sufficient time to enable the employee to vote, unless the employee has four consecutive nonworking hours during which the polls are open. Employer may decide what hours and employee must give between 2 and 10 days’ advance notice.  Proof of voting is not required.  Employers must post notices setting forth requirements for compliance with New York’s voting leave law at least 10 working days prior to every Election Day in a conspicuous place.
North Carolina Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
North Dakota Employers are not required to give time off to vote but encouraged to allow time off instead
Ohio “Reasonable” unpaid time off to vote.
Oklahoma 2 hours paid unless employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employer may decide what hours; employee must give 1 day advance notice; and employer may require proof of voting.
Oregon Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Pennsylvania Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Rhode Island Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
South Carolina Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
South Dakota 2 hours paid unless employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employer can decide what hours.  Proof of voting is not required.
Tennessee Up to 3 hours paid unless an employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employer may decide what hours and employee must give notice by noon on the day before the election of intent to use leave.  Proof of voting is not required.
Texas Must grant time off paid unless employee has 2 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open.  Neither proof of voting nor notice is required.
Utah 2 hours paid at beginning or end of shift unless employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employer may decide what hours (although employer must grant an employee’s request that the leave occur at the beginning or end of a shift) and employee must give advance notice of intent to use leave.  Proof of voting is not required.
Vermont Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Virginia Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Washington Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
Washington, D.C. Employers are not required to give time off to vote.
West Virginia 3 hours paid unless employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours during which polls are open. Employers in health, transportation, communication, production and processing facilities may specify the hours. Employees must give at least 3 days’ advance written notice.
Wisconsin 3 hours unpaid. Employers may decide what hours and employee must give advanced notice of intent to use leave
Wyoming 1 hour paid, other than a meal break, unless employee has 3 consecutive non-work hours during which the polls are open. Employer may decide what hour.

Wherever you may have employees, if your company has a voting leave policy in your employee handbook, review it to ensure it follows the law in your state or states and follow that policy in a consistent manner across all employees.  If you do not have a voting leave policy or a policy covering jury duty, witness, and other similar “miscellaneous” leaves, consider drafting one.  A succinct, clear policy addressing these issues is a good addition to an employee handbook.  Even if you are not required by law to provide voting leave and do not have a voting leave policy, your employees may want to use sick leave or personal time to get to the polls in time.

In either case, if employees think they will need to take time off to vote based on their local poll’s hours of operation, they should notify their supervisor or other management personnel with as much advance notice as practicable, and work out the details for the time off with their supervisor.

About the Authors:

Joshua Burgener is a Member in the Nashville office and can be reached at 615.620.1757 or jburgener@dickinsonwright.com. 

Angelina Delmastro is an Associate in the Detroit office and can be reached at 313.223.3126 or airvine@dickinsonwright.com.

Sara Jodka is a Member in the Columbus office and can be reached at 614.744.2943 or sjodka@dickinsonwright.com.