Voting Rights (Time off to Vote)
The term voting rights refers to state laws that allow employees to take time away from work to cast their ballot in an election. Voting rights will vary by state; however, the most common provision allows an employee anywhere from one to four hours to visit the polls.
While federal laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act do not require employers to provide employees with time away from work to vote, a large number of states have passed laws that allow employees to fulfill this civic duty. In fact, nearly 80% of states require employers to allow employees to take time before, or after, their normal work hours to vote.
In many cases, workers do not need to take time off from work to vote since the polls may be open before, or after, their normal work shift. However, if the employee’s work schedule does not permit them to visit the polls while they are open, most state laws require employers to compensate their employees for time taken away from work to cast a vote. Many state laws also prohibit employers from disciplining an employee that takes time away from work to vote.
Employees that cannot vote due to their work schedules should provide their employer with advance notice they intend to cast a vote in an election. This gives the employer time to ensure adequate coverage while the employee is away from work. It’s also advisable for employees to retain a receipt as proof they did visit the polls. Typically, a company’s policy on voting will be outlined in a collective bargaining agreement or policy statement.