Election Day 2020 is just around the corner and that means brushing up on election labor laws. While federal law doesn’t require employers to give their workers time off to vote, many states do. Before next November, review your state and local laws now to get policies in place that ensure you’re compliant with any rules around paid voting leave that your state or city might have.
If your business is based in New York or you have employees who live there, you’ll certainly want to revisit election day legalities since a new law was passed that introduces new regulations into the state’s paid voting leave laws.
Here’s the gist of the new paid voting leave law in New York as well as what paid time off for voting means for you as a small business owner no matter what state you live in.
Understanding New York’s New Paid Voting Leave Law
Previous to this law, which was passed on April 1, 2019, New York employers had to give their employees two hours of paid voting leave only if they had insufficient time to vote outside of work and employees had to notify their employers of their need for time off at least two but no more than 10 days before Election Day.
New York employers must now provide three hours of paid voting leave to their employees who are registered to vote for any election, local or federal. The time of voting also has to occur either at the beginning or end of their working hours. Further, employees are now only required to tell their employers about their need for time off two working days in advance of an election—there’s no cap on how far in advance employees can ask for time off like there was before.
While there is certainly a cost to employers that comes with this new law, the benefit is that the language is very straightforward, making compliance easy. On the employee side, it’s also equally clear what they’re allowed to ask for and it’s almost sure to boost civic engagement—a benefit few can argue with.
The Difference Between Paid Voting Leave and Civic Time Off
Civic time off is a form of PTO which gives employees paid time off to engage in a civic activity or duty. Civic activities and duties can range from volunteering for a political candidate and canvassing to attending a school board meeting and voting. The crucial difference is that civic time off is a fringe benefit that extends beyond voting and can be applied to a variety of other situations. Paid voting leave, as the name suggests, allows employees time off to do just one thing: vote.
Now the larger difference is that voting time off is required in New York, and civic time off is a perk.
Other States with Paid Voting Leave Legislation
As New York’s recent change in legislation highlights, paid voting leave laws can change at any time. Whether you’re gearing up for an upcoming election or doing a routine audit of employment laws, it’s good to know what’s your state requires you to provide for your employees at any given time. Here’s a look at what a few states across the U.S. have on the books when it comes to paid voting leave:
- California: Employees have to give two business days’ notice and employers must provide time off, including two paid hours, if an employee doesn’t have enough time outside of work to vote. Further, employers have to post these rules in an easy-to-find location at least 10 days before an election.
- Colorado: Unless an employee has three consecutive hours available to vote at the polls, employers have to give their workers two paid hours off to vote. Stipulations: The employee has to request the time off before the day of the election and the employer is allowed to specify the hours during which the employee receives the time off although it has to be at the beginning or the end of a shift if requested by the employee.
- Ohio: The only thing on Ohio’s books about voting is that it’s illegal for an employer to threaten to fire or fire an employee for taking a reasonable amount of time off to vote, nor are they allowed to compel an employee to vote or not vote.
- Texas: Unless an employee has two consecutive hours or more outside of work during which they can vote, employers are required to give their employees sufficient time off to vote and that time has to be paid. State agencies are further compelled to give their workers time off without a salary deduction or the use of an employee’s accrued leave.
- Washington: Employers are required to make it so that their employees’ schedules give them up to two hours off to vote. If that’s not possible, employers have to give employees two paid hours off to vote unless the employee had time to use an absentee ballot.