On November 6, millions of Americans will be heading to the polls to cast their vote in the general election. Less than a week later is Veterans Day. In some cases, employees may be entitled to leave on one or both of these days. To help you understand the rules, we answer frequently asked questions about leave for these purposes.
Q: Am I required to provide employees with time off to vote?
A: The following states have at least some form of requirement for employers to provide time off for employees to vote:
1 - Ohio employers can't discharge employers for taking a reasonable amount of time to vote.
2 - Pennsylvania employers can't prevent employees from voting in any election.
3 - South Carolina employers can't discharge employees for exercising their political rights.
Some of the states listed above, such as Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin, also provide leave for election officials. A few additional states, such as Delaware and Virginia, provide election-official leave only.
Q: If my state requires voting leave, how much time off do I need to provide?
A: It depends on the state. In general, states may require:
- As much time as needed. For example, Minnesota requires employers to allow employees to take the time necessary to appear at their polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of that election.
- A specific amount of time. For example, Kentucky requires employers to provide at least four hours for employees to vote.
- Time off only if the employee lacks sufficient time outside of work. For example, California requires that if an employee is without "sufficient time outside of working hours" to vote, they must be provided enough time off work to enable them to vote, but only two hours of such leave must be paid.
- Time off based specifically on the distance to the employee's polling location. For example, Nevada allows for one hour of paid time off if the distance is two miles or less, two hours if it's more than two miles but less than 10, and three hours if the distance is greater than 10 miles.
Check your state law for guidance on the amount of leave that must be provided.
Q: If my state requires me to provide time off to vote, is the time off paid or unpaid?
A: Of the states that require time off to vote, most require all or a portion of it to be paid. If pay is not required by state or local law, employers typically do not need to compensate non-exempt employees for time spent voting. Regardless of your state requirement, however, under federal law, exempt employees must be paid for time spent voting since the Fair Labor Standards Act generally prohibits deductions from an exempt employee's pay for partial-day absences. Check your state law for guidance.
Q: Can I specify what time of the day the voting leave can be taken?
A: Some states allow employers to specify when the leave can be taken or require employees to take the leave at the beginning or end of their shift. Others don't give employers that option. Even in some of the states that allow employers to specify when the leave can be taken, the employer must honor employee requests to schedule the time off at the beginning or end of their shift. Check your state law for guidance.
Q: Do employees have to give notice that they will need voting leave?
A: Some states require employees to give notice of the need for voting leave prior to Election Day. Some require a specific amount of notice whereas others simply require reasonable notice. In states without a notice requirement, employers may request reasonable notice but may not be able to require it.
Q: Are there other notice requirements I should know about?
A: Yes. At least two states—California and New York—require employers to post a notice about voting leave at least 10 days before an election.
Veterans Day Leave:
Q: Am I required to provide time off on Veterans Day for employees who are veterans?
A: Currently, four states expressly require employers to provide time off to veterans on Veterans Day:
- New Hampshire
Q: If I'm required to provide time off to employees on Veterans Day, is the leave paid or unpaid?
A: All four states allow employers to offer either paid or unpaid leave* for Veterans Day, but you may be required to provide advance notice as to what type of leave is provided. For example, Iowa requires employers to notify employees at least 10 days in advance if Veterans Day leave is paid or unpaid.
* Note: Prior to 2018, Massachusetts required employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid time off to veterans on Veterans Day, but the law was recently amended to remove the pay requirement.
Q: Are employees required to provide notice that they will need Veterans Day leave?
A: Only the Iowa, New Hampshire, and Oregon laws specifically address employee notice. Iowa requires that employees provide their employer with at least one month's prior written notice of their intent to take time off for Veterans Day. New Hampshire requires employees to give advance notice in accordance with the employer's policies and procedures. Oregon requires at least 21 calendar days’ notice.
Voting and Veterans Day leave requirements vary from state to state. Carefully review all applicable laws to understand the rules that apply to your employees.