Increasingly, American voters are choosing to take advantage of absentee ballots and early voting to avoid standing in long lines on Election Day. However, America's voter participation rates are still pathetic by any measure. In the 2012 presidential election, it was just 56.5 percent. The most-cited reason by voters for not voting is that they're "too busy."
Polls are open on Election Day before and after most people's regular workday and for enough hours to accommodate those with non-traditional work hours. However, most employers throughout the country are still required to give employees time off (often paid) on Election Day so that they can exercise their right to vote.
State Laws and Company Policies Vary
In 31 states, there are laws requiring employers to give workers time off to vote. Three-fourths of those states require that employees be compensated for that time. Two hours is a common period of time allowed by law for employees who don't have at least that much non-work time before or after the polls close.
Even in states where it's not a legal requirement, many companies provide a certain amount of paid time off to vote. A survey of employers by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 86 percent provide time off, and one-third of those pay employees for that time.
Know the Applicable Laws and Policies
If you don't know what your state laws or your company's policy are regarding time off to vote, find out before Nov. 8. It should be somewhere in your company's written policies. Some states, including New York and California, require employers to post this policy prior to Election Day. Of course, it's always best to give your manager some notice so that he or she can schedule workers' time off to vote. This is particularly essential if your job requires a certain number of personnel to be available for customers or other needs at any given time.
If you provide some advance notice and make an effort not to unduly inconvenience your boss and your fellow employees, no reasonable employer should prohibit you from taking time away from work to vote. If you have difficulty getting this time off -- particularly if it's required by law -- or suffer some sort of retaliation for doing so, an experienced employment law attorney may be able to offer guidance.
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