Workplace Rights

Weekly (11/2/20)

Topic of the Week  Laws on Voting Rights/Time Off to Vote

Some states with laws allowing time off to vote impose penalties if an employer keeps workers from exercising their right to vote. While the penalties in some of the states that have them can be quite severe, other states do not have penalties at all. Voting is your right, make sure you are not denied it.

I'm scheduled to work on Election Day. Do I have a right to take time off from work to vote?

Not necessarily. Getting time off to vote is an area of the law dealt with on a state-by-state basis. Depending on where you live, you may, or may not have the right to take time off to vote. For voting, the state laws rule applies during local, as well as national presidential elections.

In some states, the law designates a specific amount of time that workers must be allowed off to vote. This time off may be paid or unpaid. Some states require your employer to give you time off only if you will not have enough time to vote before or after work, while the polls are open. Most but not all states prevent your employer from firing or disciplining you because you take time off to vote. In some states, if you do not actually vote even though you took time off for that purpose, your employer can dock your pay for the hours off, so save your receipt or other proof of voting in case you're later questioned.

How do I take advantage of the law in my state to vote during work hours on Election Day?

While the law on this varies from state to state, many states require that you give your employer advance notice of your intention to vote, or you cannot rely on the law's protections. It's a good idea anyway, so that you and your employer can make arrangements for coverage while you're away from work. Even if your state does not have a law, you may find your employer will support your efforts to vote. If there are no protections in your state, and your employer will not accommodate your need to vote, before giving up and not voting, be sure to find out your state's laws on absentee or early voting. That may be an option if there is absolutely no way you can be away from work and still vote.

I want to volunteer or work at the polls on Election Day. Can my employer stop me from doing that?

Even if your state has a law allowing you to vote, the time that you are permitted for voting is generally limited to a few hours--the time it takes most people to vote--rather than the entire day. Your employer may allow you to use a vacation day or personal leave for that purpose, but if you're planning to do this, it's recommended that you give advance notice. Your employer might not be so supportive of its employees' civic participation in the future if everyone just calls in sick or takes leave that day. Use of sick leave and vacation leave are generally within your employer's discretion to approve or deny. Employees generally do not have a legal right to take leave whenever they want without advance notice or permission, even if leave has been accrued, so make sure your employer is on board before you miss work.

Thought of the Week

"Democracy is based upon the conviction there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people."

–Harry Emerson Fosdick

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from Al Jazeera

    Voter Turnout

    • More than 29.6 million people have voted early by mail or in person, shattering 2016 records.
    • 45 percent of respondents say they plan on voting in person on Election Day.
    • In 2016, according to the US Election Assistance Commission, 41 percent of the total votes were cast early in person or by mail. 


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