With Election Day quickly approaching and a movement to get people to the polls, employers must understand the importance of providing employees with time-off to vote. By allowing their workforce to exercise their right to vote, they are encouraging employee engagement. Currently, there is no federal law mandating that employers must allow their employees to get to the polls; however, many states have enacted laws requiring businesses to offer paid leave to vote. The majority of the laws passed by states require organizations to provide notice about workers right to vote, and offer either paid or unpaid time-off to cast their vote.
Approximately 4 in 10 eligible voters did not cast their vote in the 2016 presidential election according to research done by Nonprofit VOTE and the US Election Project. This number increases during mid-term elections. The main factors that contribute to this low turnout are people who have to work or have child care responsibilities. Donna Norton, the Executive Vice President of MomsRising explains, “Getting to the polls can be especially challenging for people in rural communicates or single-parent households, and those who are juggling multiple jobs.” The simple fix is to have businesses make sure that their workforce has paid time-off to vote. Giving employees time-off to participate in civic or community activities has a high likelihood of improving worker performance.
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming
Employers in the states above should plan for adequate work coverage to make sure all employees can take time-off to vote. Additionally, employees should plan and give advanced notice to their employers if they are requesting time-off to vote. Employers in these states can ask for proof of voting from the employee to make sure they used the time to vote. Employers in New York and California must post signs in the workplace before Election Day to inform employees of their rights. Employers may have to pay penalties if they do not comply.
Most states prohibit employers from disciplining or firing an employee who takes time-off from work to vote. If employers promote a culture in which they are providing employees with time-off to vote, they can mitigate the risk of potential retaliation claims.
Employers at a minimum should have a documented policy spelling out the voting rights available under applicable laws. Employers not in a state that mandates paid leave would still be best served to have a policy outlining their expectations about time-off for voting. Larger, multi-state employers may adopt a nationwide single policy for consistency purposes. This single policy could allow for employees to take time-off to vote even if they are in state that does not recognize vote leave laws. As Bryan Stillwagon, an attorney with Sherman & Howard, puts it, “Companies with the happiest and most-engaged employees recognize that positive morale comes from doing more than what is required.”
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