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Giving Time Off to Vote May Mean Juggling Schedules

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on November 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The election is upon us and that means many, if not all, of your employees are planning to vote. That could potentially mess with your schedule.

Because Election Day falls on Tuesday, citizens will be trying to make it the polls to cast their ballots -- and then get back to work in a reasonable amount of time. In some areas, polls are open early and late to accommodate people's schedules.

As an employer, it's your responsibility to give your employees time off to vote (check out the laws in your state here). But even though it's the law in most states to give time off for voting, a few conditions must generally still be met.

For example, like with other time off requests, employees should ask beforehand about taking work time to cast their ballots. Most states' laws require that employers give their workers reasonable time off to vote if necessary, but employees generally have to show why they need the time.

Time to vote may not be an issue for your office if only a few people ask for time off. But if everyone needs to take some time off to vote during the workday, then it may become a problem.

Retaliating against an employee for taking time off to vote is illegal in almost every state. Discipline for taking unauthorized time off is one thing -- but punishment for taking time off to vote, or unwillingness to accommodate time off requests, could get your company in legal trouble.

If you're trying to juggle schedules, it may help to ask employees if they could take time off to vote during different parts of the day. An effort to stagger voting time could make all the difference.

But in some cases that won't be enough to solve the problem. If that's true, it may be time to check exactly what the law requires.

In most states, employees are guaranteed time off to vote only if they can demonstrate that they won't otherwise have time to reach the polls. If that's the case in your state, you could ask employees if their polling places are open early or late in the day so that voting won't interfere with work.

With all the early voting and voting-by-mail that is now available, taking time off to vote is less of a problem than it has been in the past. But for Tuesday's Election Day scheduling, keep in mind that everyone wants to take part in the election.

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