The right to vote is one of the most fundamental in our democracy. With Election Day right around the corner on Tuesday November 5th, employers should ensure they are in compliance with state and local laws granting employees time off to vote.
There is a great deal of variation among the states in terms of what leave, if any, is required. Some states have no such requirements. In other states, election leave must be offered, but is unpaid. Still in others, paid election leave is required. New York law requires that employees be given leave to vote, and employers must pay for up to two hours of that time.
Who Gets Time Off to Vote in New York?
In New York, employees who are registered voters must be given sufficient time to vote. “Sufficient time” in New York is four consecutive hours between the opening of the polls and the closing of the polls. For a general election (such as that happening on November 5th), the New York polls are open between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm.
Employees Who Have “Sufficient Time” During the Workday Do Not Receive Voting Leave
An employee is not entitled to time off if his or her schedule allows for four consecutive hours to vote during the time the polls are open.
- For example, if an employee’s shift starts at 10:00 am on an election day, then the employee has four consecutive hours to vote while the polls are open.
- Similarly, if an employee’s shift ends at 5:00 pm, then that employee has “sufficient time” (four consecutive hours) to vote before the polls close at 9:00 pm.
- Finally, if an employee has a four-hour midday break between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm, they have sufficient time to vote and are not granted voting leave under New York law.
Employees Who Do Not Have Sufficient Time During the Workday Must Receive Paid Voting Leave
If an employee has less than four consecutive hours to vote during the time the polls are open, that employee is entitled to enough additional leave time to give them a total of four consecutive hours to vote. Up to two hours of that leave time must be paid.
Further, unless the employer and employee agree otherwise, time off to vote is only allowed at the beginning or end of an eligible employee’s working time, as designated by the employer.
- For example, if an employee’s shift starts at 9:00 am and ends at 6:00 pm, he or she would only have three consecutive hours with which to vote at either the beginning or the end of the workday. In this situation, the employer must grant the employee an hour of paid voting leave at either the beginning or the end of the shift (the employer chooses which) with which to vote.
Notice Requirements for Employers
Ten days before every election, employers must post a notice concerning New York’s election leave laws, and that notice must remain posted until the polls close on Election Day.
Eligible employees who wish to exercise their right to election leave time must notify their employers no more than ten, but not less than two, working days before Election Day.
Voting leave is an often overlooked part of New York’s leave laws. Make sure that employees who are eligible for voting leave have the chance to take advantage of it.
For more information on voting leave, as well as a copy of the notice to employees, click here.