Compliance

Time off for voting: What HR needs to know

As states hold primary contests ahead of the 2024 general election, HR pros can plan for potential absences for voting.
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Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

· 3 min read

Election season is upon us. With the Iowa Republican caucus and New Hampshire primary in the rearview mirror, the rest of the country is gearing up for a series of contests that will dominate our national attention until November.

HR pros are no exception, and can plan for election day(s) to make sure employees are able to exercise their civic duty in a way that minimizes any disruption to the business and ensures the company remains compliant with disparate leave laws across the country.

“It is to ensure as much access as possible to allow people to vote,” said Debbie Birndorf-Zeiler, a California labor and employment attorney, of the Golden State’s paid leave for voting law. “This is certainly not the case everywhere in California, but certainly in the metropolitan areas, that is an issue because even if you get off at six o’clock, getting to [your polling location] can be over an hour because the commutes are long.”

While there is no federal law requiring employers to provide employees any time off to vote, 30 states and the District of Columbia require employers provide some leave.

  • States with paid time-off: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
  • States with unpaid time-off: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin. Most states with time-off mandates specify how long employees can be away to participate in the election. Many states have exceptions and carve outs based on when employees have consecutive time off and when polling places are open.
  • States without leave laws: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. North Dakota employers are “encouraged” to allow employees to take time off to vote, but lawmakers have not mandated it.
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What’s HR to do? HR pros looking to get ready for the primaries and general election this year can get to know the voting leave laws in states where their employees reside.

Birndorf-Zeiler noted that the laws apply to those working from home, as well, adding that HR should take care not to discriminate against remote employees.

“Wherever the employee is located, you want to make sure you’re familiar with the laws in those states,” Birndorf-Zeiler said. “But…if you’re compliant in California, you’re generally going to be compliant everywhere, because California does [generally] have the strictest laws.”

A map of the US showing which states require employers to give employees time off work to vote

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Birndorf-Zeiler suggested HR professionals anticipate and plan for their employees to leave early or arrive late for their shifts in order to vote, and talk with employees to understand their plans on election day so the company is not in the lurch.

“If you’re the type of practice that might have scheduling conflicts…[If] people are leaving early and you…need to staff it, you need to be mindful of the staffing considerations,” Birndorf-Zeiler said. “A lot of jobs actually require you to be in attendance, and any of those jobs are going to be affected by staffing issues.”

The Society for Human Resource Management provides sample language for a time-off policy for HR pros looking to add one to their employee handbook. This resource is not state specific.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.