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Are you entitled to time off work to vote? Depends where you live

October 19, 2020, 9:00 PM UTC

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With voter turnout on track to be the highest percentage of registered voters in a century or more, employers and employees need to know the rules on taking time off to vote. Millions have already voted by mail or in person, but millions more will wait until Election Day on November 3. Who’s entitled by law to skip work and possibly get paid for voting?

The answers vary widely by state. Employers must give employees time to vote on Election Day in 30 states, says a compilation of relevant laws assembled by Workplace Fairness, a nonprofit that connects individuals with employment lawyers. In 23 of those states, workers must be paid for their time. The full state-by-state compilation  is here.

Employees in states requiring time off to vote shouldn’t start planning a vacation day, though; most states allow only limited time off, typically two hours. Other restrictions are significant:

  • If polls are open before or after an employee’s shift, typically for two or three hours, then in most states no time off needs be given.
  • Some states require employees to notify their employer they intend to take time off to vote.
  • In several states—Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, others—the employer can decide when time off is taken during the day.
  • Some states that require paid time off specify that employees must vote in order to get paid. Hawaii and Oklahoma require that employees provide proof they voted; Maryland also allows proof of attempting to vote.
  • In Ohio, only salaried employees must be paid for their time off to vote.

More than 1,600 employers have joined Time to Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative formed in 2018 by Levi Strauss, Patagonia, PayPal, and other major companies to promote voting. Many of the members have pledged to pay employees for time they spend voting, regardless of whether it’s required by law. Other major employers who haven’t joined Time to Vote, including General Motors and the Paul Weiss law firm, are going beyond legal requirements to promote voting on their own.