Deciding Your Employment Policy When it Comes to Voting this Year

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As Election Day draws closer, have you, as an employer, revisited your employment policy with respect to voting or considered establishing them if none are in place?  This may be especially important in the time of COVID-19 where in-person voting may be too risky for the employees. 

Generally, employers should always have a plan on election days for employees to cast their vote that is explained in their employment policy or employment handbook. Although election day is not a national holiday, and federal laws do not require private employers to pay for employee time off to vote, many states already have laws mandating employers to provide time off for employees to vote whether paid or unpaid. Twelve states, including Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, have made it a state holiday this year. It is often recommended to check the state rules on whether time or day off on election day is required to avoid a violation of state laws. 

Nearly half the states have in place laws requiring employers to allow paid or unpaid time off for workers to exercise their rights to vote, which is something to consider including in your employment policy. Some have a specific number of hours employers must provide, and others only mandate “reasonable” or “sufficient” time. Most states, however, have voting leave laws prohibiting employers from discriminating or retaliating against any employees requesting or taking time off to vote. Employers should check if their states also have a notification requirement to publish such rights at the workplace.

Finally, the current pandemic makes voting a public health issue. Many companies have implemented plans to accommodate extended voting days, encourage mail-in ballots, allowing employees time to volunteer as poll workers, or provide longer paid time off in consideration of the long wait time.  

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