There is often a lot of confusion regarding an employer’s obligation to provide employees with paid time off to vote. Employers are NOT required to give employees time off work to vote, unless the employee’s work schedule leaves them with insufficient time outside of working hours to vote.
For the General Election on November 8, 2016, California’s polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Although many California residents vote by mail, an employer cannot require its employees to vote in this manner. Employees working a 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. shift, will have ample time to vote before or after working hours, and are therefore not entitled to time off from work to go to the polls. The only employees entitled to paid time off to vote are those whose work schedules do not provide sufficient time outside of working hours to vote.
Sufficient Time to Vote
“Sufficient time” to vote is generally considered to be two consecutive hours. Consequently, any employee whose workday begins at 9:00 a.m. or later, or whose workday ends at 6:00 p.m. or earlier has sufficient time to vote outside of working hours.
Paid Time Off
Employees whose work schedules do not provide for two consecutive hours to vote during a statewide or national election are entitled to up to two hours of paid time off so that they may cast their vote. If necessary, an employee may be granted more than two hours to vote; however, the employer is only required to pay for two hours of that time. The time off for voting should be taken either at the beginning or end of the regular working shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from work. However, the employer and employee may mutually agree for the employee to take time off to vote during a different time of the work day.
Employee’s Notice Requirement
If the employee knows, or has reason to believe, on the third working day before the election that time off will be necessary, the employee must give the employer at least 2 working days’ notice of their need for time off to vote. For those employees working a traditional Monday – Friday workweek, they must notify their employer of their need for time off to vote no later than Friday, November 4, 2016. Any employee failing to provide adequate notice of their need for time off to vote may not be entitled to paid time off for this purpose. However, any employer with reasonable notice of an employee’s need for such time off is advised to provide the employee with paid time off.
Employer’s Notice Requirement
At least 10 days before the election, or no later than Saturday, October 29, 2016, all employers must post, in a conspicuous location, a notice setting forth the requirements described herein. If the employer’s business will not be open on October 29, then the notice must be posted no later than the last working day prior to October 29, 2016, most likely Friday, October 28, 2016.
The California Secretary of State has prepared a sample notice for employers to use. Notices are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/time-vote-notices/
An employee may not be suspended or discharged because of an absence from employment for serving as an election officer on Election Day.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding the foregoing.