In the United States, our ability to vote is one of the most important rights in our democratic society. No matter what party we belong to, or candidates we support, it’s vital that we get out there and participate when November 6th rolls around.
As John Adams, our second president and one of the Founding Fathers of our country, said, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
It’s important in this Presidential election year, as any election period, that time off to vote policies are current, readily available to managers and employees, and compliant with state and local laws. There is a wide variety of requirements in state laws, ranging from no requirements at all to specific paid time off. Here is a sampling of some of these:
- Many states do not require paid time off if there is an adequate gap (two, three, or even four hours) between the time the polls open and the employees’ start times, or the time the polls close and the employees’ end times. In other words, the law recognizes that the employees have enough time to vote either before or after work.
- State requirements vary in terms of paid time off or time off without pay.
- Many states allow the employer to specify the voting hours. This gives employers greater control for work planning and coverage.
- Some states require that employees apply for a voting leave of absence in order to be excused from work.
- In some cases, the distance between the workplace and the polling stations may determine eligibility for time off to vote.
- Absentee ballots can substitute for time off in some states for those unable to be away from their workplaces on Election Day.
Be sure to check your state and local laws for any voting time off requirements. These could include:
- Employee time off requirements – paid or unpaid
- Allowing employee to arrive late at work with no penalty
- Allowing employee to leave work early with no penalty
Read the legal requirements carefully – you may be prohibited from firing an employee for taking a reasonable time off to vote. As an employer, check state and local law, establish a policy and communicate requirements to your employees.
But, in addition to the legal and policy requirements, celebrate our American right to vote! Set an example by voting early and sporting a voting sticker or pin. Make sure your managers and supervisors support their employees’ rights to vote.
The right to vote may be taken for granted by some, but it is truly the cornerstone of our democracy. By making sure that your policies are compliant with state and local law, and providing open communications for your managers and employees, you’ll be helping qualified American citizens to exercise this precious right.