With the 2008 election only days away and voter turnout expected to set new
records, employers can expect to be flooded with employee requests for time off
to vote. Many employers will allow employees to flex their work schedule on
Election Day or make other accommodations so that employees can participate as
active citizens. However, in deciding what, if any, time off to allow for
voting, it is helpful to know what employers are legally obligated to do.
At present, there is no federal law that obligates employers to provide
employees with time off to vote. However, the majority of states (whether red or
blue) do impose some form of voting leave requirement on both public and private
Although voting leave laws vary heavily from state to state, they typically
include some or all of the following components:
Guaranteed time off within certain parameters for
“voting” as opposed to time off for “voters” (i.e., just because an employee
is registered to vote does not entitle him or her to leave unless the
employee is actually using the time to vote).
- Defined leave “windows” linked to polling hours in relation to an
employee’s regular work hours.
- Required reasonable notice to an employer or formal application for
leave prior to Election Day.
- Paid time off up to a defined amount.
The following are examples of various state law approaches:
California employers must generally provide employees with “sufficient time”
during work hours to vote in a statewide election that, “when added to the
voting time available outside of working hours, will enable the [employee] to
vote.” Such time must be taken at the beginning or end of a regular work shift,
whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from work,
unless otherwise mutually agreed. Employers are further required to pay up to
two hours of the “sufficient time” taken by employees to vote. As for notice,
employers are required to post a notice of California voting leave rights at
least ten days before every statewide election. Employees, in turn, must provide
notice of their desire for time off at least two working days in advance of the
election when they know or have reason to believe time off will be necessary.
See Cal. Elec. Code §§14000-14003.
There is no employee voting leave law in the State of Florida. However, state
law does provide that it is unlawful to discharge or threaten to discharge any
employee for voting or not voting in an election for any candidate or for any
measure submitted to a vote of the people.
See Fla. Stat. §104.081.
Georgia employers are required to allow employees, upon reasonable employee
notice, to take “any necessary time off” to vote on the day on which a primary
or election is held, up to a maximum of two hours. Such leave may be paid or
unpaid at the employer’s discretion. Employers may also specify the hours during
which leave should be taken. In addition, if an employee’s work hours start at
least two hours after polls open or end at least two hours before polls close,
he or she is not entitled to voting leave under Georgia law.
See Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-404.
In Illinois, employees who are eligible to vote are entitled to leave for a
period of up to two hours during polling hours if the employee’s working hours
begin less than two hours after polls open or end less than two hours before
polls close. Such time off is with pay and must not subject the employee to any
penalty. However, employers may specify the hours during which voting leave may
be taken. In addition, application for voting leave must be made prior to
See 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/17-15.
Maryland employers must provide employees with up to two hours of paid leave
from work on Election Day “if the employee does not have 2 hours of continuous
off-duty [time]” in which to vote while polls are open. No advance notice is
required by the statute. However, an employee must furnish “proof” that he or
she has voted or attempted to vote in a form prescribed by the State Board of
See Md. Code Ann., Elec. Law § 10-315.
In New York, employers must allow employees who do not have “sufficient time”
outside of working hours in which to vote to take up to two hours of paid time
off. Required time off is only allowed at the beginning or end of a work shift,
as designated by the employer, unless otherwise mutually agreed. However, if an
employee has four consecutive non-working hours in which to vote (either between
the opening of the polls and the beginning of a shift or between the end of work
and poll close), such time is deemed to be “sufficient”, and an employee is not
entitled to leave. Employers are required to post a notice of New York voting
leave rights at least ten days before every election. Employees, in turn, must
provide notice of their desire for time off at least two but not more than ten
working days prior to Election Day.
See N.Y. Elec. Law § 3-110.
North Carolina does not have a state voting leave law. However, it is a Class
2 misdemeanor for any person to discharge, threaten to discharge, or intimidate
an employee or other individual “on account of any vote such voter may cast or
consider or intend to cast, or not cast, or which he may have failed to cast.”
In addition, employers are prohibited from discharging or demoting employees
because of their appointment or service as a precinct official.
See N.C. Gen. Stat. §§163-41.2 and 163-274.
There is no employee voting leave law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
However, employers and other individuals are prohibited from engaging in
intimidation or other forms of influence in connection with voting.
See 25 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 3539 and 3547.
Virginia does not have a state law that requires employee voting leave.
However, employees who serve as an election officer must be allowed unpaid time
off from work without “adverse personnel action” and cannot be required to use
sick leave or vacation time for such service, provided the employee gives
reasonable notice of the need for leave. It is also unlawful for any person to
“hinder, intimidate or interfere with any qualified voter so as to prevent the
voter from casting a secret ballot.”
See Va. Code Ann. §§ 24.2-118.1 and 24.2-607.
District of Columbia
Lastly (and most ironically), the District of Columbia is included in the
ranks of the minority of jurisdictions that do not have voting leave laws of any
kind. What that says about Washington, D.C. and our political system generally
we will leave for others.
However, for assistance in analyzing your state’s specific voting leave
requirements or addressing any other employee leave or wage and hour issue,
please contact any member of the McGuireWoods
Labor & Employment or