Can I Leave Work to Vote? Check Your State's Voting Laws First

Posted November 5, 2018 by Sasha Butkovich in Keeping Compliant
Do you know what kind of rights you have when it comes to taking time off work to vote? Employers and employees alike should get to know their state and local voting laws.

Between presidential elections, midterms, and various local elections, there are many opportunities for Americans to exercise their right to vote. Of course, this can often involve the need to take some time off of work to do so.

It’s important for employers and employees alike to know their state and local voting laws. These laws will typically tell you whether employers are required to give employees time off to vote, whether it should be paid or unpaid, and other important details.

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Taking Time Off to Vote

Many workers wonder whether they have a right to take time off of work to vote. The answer, as with most employment-related laws, is that it depends on the applicable jurisdiction. Most states have laws that give employees the right to take time off to vote, but the laws vary substantially from one state to the next.

For example, many state voting laws allow employees to take only a certain amount of time off from work, or only if you don’t have enough time to vote before or after work while the polls are open. A few states require that time off to vote be paid, while others only entitle employees to use accrued personal leave.

Most states have laws that give employees the right to take time off to vote, but the laws vary from one state to the next.

There may also be provisions around giving enough notice if you’ll be taking time off to vote. Giving notice is a best practice anyway, as employees will want to coordinate with their employers to make sure they’re covered for any time away from the workplace.

As an employee, make sure to read the laws that apply to you closely to make sure you get it right. At the very least, most (but not all) states prevent an employer from firing or disciplining employees because they take time off to vote. Some states even impose criminal penalties on employers that terminate or otherwise penalize employees for taking time off to vote.

If your state or locality doesn’t have voting laws in place, it’s a good idea to talk to your manager or employer about your plans to vote. You’ll probably find them to be supportive, and willing to make reasonable accommodations for Election Day. If not, you can always check your state’s procedures around early voting or absentee voting to get your ballot counted that way.

Related Article: Get Out the Vote: Ways to Motivate Employees to Make it to the Polls

If you’re an employer, it’s a good idea to not only ensure your company’s voting policy aligns with applicable laws, but is also clearly outlined in your employee handbook for easy access by anyone on your team. In addition, make sure you're complying with applicable posting requirements. At least two states, New York and California, require employers to conspicuously post a notice of employees' rights to take time off to vote at least ten days before the election.

Exploring State Voting Laws

State voting laws vary in a variety of factors, including:

  • Amount of leave required, and exceptions
  • Notice required by employee
  • Whether time off must be paid
  • Whether proof of voting is required

Here, we’ve rounded up a few state voting laws to give you an idea of how these requirements can look. If your state isn’t on this short list, check out this chart to learn more about your voting rights as an employee.

California

  • Time off required? Yes, up to two hours at the beginning or end of a shift.
  • Exceptions: None
  • Advance notice required? Yes, two working days before election
  • Paid time off required? Yes, up to two hours
  • Proof of voting required? No

Other important notes: The California Elections Code also requires employers to post a notice no less than 10 days before every statewide election explaining employees' right to time off to vote. The notice must be posted in a conspicuous place at the work site.

Read the law for details

Georgia

  • Time off required? Yes, as much as necessary, up to two hours
  • Exceptions: None
  • Advance notice required? No
  • Paid time off required? Yes
  • Proof of voting required? No

Read the law for details

Massachusetts

  • Time off required? Yes, the first two hours that polls are open.
  • Exceptions: None
  • Advance notice required? Employees must apply for a leave of absence, but no time is specified
  • Paid time off required? No
  • Proof of voting required? No

Other important notes: Applies to workers in manufacturing, mechanical or retail industries.

Read the law for details

New Jersey

  • Time off required? No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote. But employers cannot influence or intimidate employees to vote for or against a particular candidate.

Read the law for details

New York

  • Time off required? Yes, as much time at the beginning or end of a shift as will give the employee time to vote, when combined with non-work time.
  • Exceptions: Not required if the employee has four consecutive non-work hours available at the beginning or end of their shift while polls are open.
  • Advance notice required? Yes, not more than 10 or less than two working days before the election.
  • Paid time off required? Yes, up to two hours
  • Proof of voting required? No

Other important notes: Conspicuous notice of voting rights must be posted not less than 10 working days before every election. Companies who bar a worker from voting could lose their corporate charter.

Read the law for details

Texas

  • Time off required? An employer may not refuse to allow employees to take time off, but no time limit is specified
  • Exceptions: Not required if an employee has two consecutive non-work hours available while polls are open.
  • Advance notice required? No
  • Paid time off required? Yes
  • Proof of voting required? No

Read the law for details

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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.