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Time Off for Voting: What Employers Should Know

Do you have an election leave policy? Whether or not you have one, state law may require you to accommodate voter leave requests with paid leave.

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November 8, 2016, is expected to have a heavy voter turnout, meaning employers should be prepared to accommodate voter leave requests and start communicating their election day policy in advance.

Although many states allow companies to dictate their own vacation leave policies, more than 50% of states require companies to provide time off to vote, with many of these states mandating the leave be paid.

According to bizjournals.com, here are four tips to forming your election day policy:

  1. Be sure you comply with applicable voter leave laws in the state(s) where you have employees. Progressive companies with the highest employee morale tend to go beyond what is legally required when it comes to policies such as voting leave.
  2. Determine ahead of time whether or not you need to stagger shifts or account for individuals using their voting leave so that appropriate staffing levels are maintained while still adhering to state laws. In most states, employers can designate the time of day when employees can be absent to vote during the workday. The employee is generally required to give advance notice of the need for leave, and employers can generally require proof of voting.
  3. Be neutral and consistent when granting time off to vote to avoid claims of discrimination or voter disenfranchisement.
  4. Consider posting a notice of employee voting rights, even if it’s not a requirement in the state you operate. New York, for example, requires employers to post state rules conspicuously at least 10 working days prior to an election and keep the posting in place until the polls close on election day. California has a similar provision.

As a best practice tip from bizjournals.com, if you operate in states with no specific voter leave rules, you should generally allow up to two hours of paid time to vote for employees with insufficient time to do so during their regular workday.

For more information or help with forming an Election Day Policy, please contact our HR experts at hr@stratus.hr.

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Utah Law 20A-3-103 says that companies with Utah-based employees must provide up to two hours of paid time off to vote if employees do not have three or more consecutive non-work hours between the time polls open and close.  The employer may specify the hours for when the employee may be absent.  Enforcement of this policy threatens a class B misdemeanor for anyone found in violation.

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