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Election Day and Wage and Hour Law: Paid Voting Leave Laws

We’ll get back to FLSA mergers and acquisition tips tomorrow, I promise, but today is election day in many places around the country.  It is easy to remember election day in presidential years, but state and local elections happen every year.  Election day brings with it a special wage and hour issue that many employers unintentionally overlook: voting leave.  A majority of states and localities require that employers give employees a certain amount of leave to perform this important civic duty.

In 24 states, employers must pay employees for time spent voting.  In those states employers cannot penalize an employee in any way, including deducting wages for time the employee is authorized by law to leave or miss work to vote. These laws typically do come with restrictions, even in states with paid leave.  For instance, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming provide for paid voting leave only if an employee actually votes.  The timing and notice requirements for these voting leaves vary widely, too.  In Californiaemployees may take time off at the beginning or end of a shift to allow for sufficient time to vote, and up to two hours must be paid.  In Illinois, employers must provide employees up to two hours paid time away from work only if those employees have applied or informed them of the need for time away from work before Election Day.  In New York state, employers must provide at least two paid hours of leave to vote if the employee does not already have four consecutive non-working hours off before the polls close.  In all, eighteen states require employees to give advance notice of their intention to take time off to vote. Iowa and West Virginia add the requirement that the notification be in writing. Employers are allowed to specify the hours to be taken for voting in 22 states.

Remember that election day is not only the first Tuesday in November.  Primary elections and special elections occur throughout the year at the state and local level, and voting leave laws apply equally to those days, too.  Avoid the potential civil penalties and litigation associated with wage and hour violations like these.  Today is a great day to check your policies on voting leave, as well as your state and local laws to make sure that you’re doing what is required to support your employees’ right to perform their civic duty.

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Photo credit: stuant63 (Flickr)/Foter.com - CC BY-NC

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