Election Day is Looming – Do Your Employees Get Time Off To Vote?

Elections - conceptual illustration. Election day. Cartoon hand with blank

The general election is November 8, 2016, and let’s admit it, we’re all a little tense about it. While we can’t fix that, we can help you with some guidance addressing what employers and managers need to know about voting and other political activity in the workplace.

Here are a few points to keep in mind regarding employee voting privileges:

    1. Employees have no federal right to take paid or unpaid time off to vote—but almost every state DOES have a law giving employees the right to take a couple of hours off to vote if there is not sufficient time outside work hours when the polls are open. Employees generally do have to give advance notice to take time off. In 23 states, such time must be paid. Check www.workplacefairness.org/voting-rights-workplace to see if you have to pay in your state. If you do have to pay, you can require employees to provide a receipt or proof that they voted (In Hawaii, it’s required). Best Bet:  Encourage your employees to vote early or by mail. 
    2. Employees have the right to maintain and express political points of view, just not on the clock! It’s okay to prohibit some activities, such as using company resources to assist in campaigns, or engaging in distracting political conversations during work time (but not during breaks). Be extremely cautious in banning the distribution of literature, however, as you will run up against NLRB rules. Call CEDR if you have concerns about this. Most importantly, you must constrain your own political activity at work as well—if you are sending out political memes or endorsing a specific candidate, your own behavior can be just as disruptive to your team, if not more. And some states prohibit employers from trying to influence employee’s vote. Best bet: Avoid making political statements other than “Get out and vote!” 
    3. California employers are required to post a notice describing voting leave requirements at least 10 days before every statewide election (See CA Election Code Section 14000.) If you have your CEDR all-in-one posters, you already have this. California allows employees to take up to 2 hours of paid time to vote at the beginning or end of a shift, if there is not sufficient time outside working hours to vote. The employee can take more time if needed, but only 2 hours are paid.

If you have employees who are particularly outspoken or politically active, it’s important that you have and follow a written policy that is specific to your state’s laws and applied consistently and fairly to avoid claims of harassment or discrimination. You can’t control what your employees think or how they vote, but you can control what happens on your dime.

Have questions? Medical and dental employers can call CEDR Solutions at 866-414-6056 for more guidance. And don’t forget to vote!

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature, and is not intended to replace good counsel about a specific issue with either your attorney or your favorite HR expert.

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Please note: CEDR Solutions specializes in providing expert HR support to owners and operators of independently owned medical and dental practices.