November 2 is Election Day, and employees of all political stripes may be taking a bit of time off work to vote. Employers of all sizes and stripes should be sure they know the law regarding this duty and right. The laws of nearly every state allow time off from work to vote, but whether or not other benefits such as paid time off are included, vary from state to state.
Some laws place more responsibility on the employers, some place equal responsibility on employees regarding time off to vote. In some states, the employee has certain requirements they must meet to take advantage of time off to vote. Some jurisdictions ask that employees show proof they voted, or give advance notice that they will require time off to vote. Some states allow employers to set the time that employees may take to vote.
To check on the specific requirements where your business is located, your state labor department website is a good resource for time off for voting rules in each state.
The amount of time off that must be given to an employee can depend on their schedule and might permit the employer to not give additional time off for voting. For example, if an employee has two or three consecutive hours off while the polls are open, or otherwise has enough time to vote before or after work, an employer may not have to let the employee take time to vote during work hours.
Many states will fine an employer that disciplines or fines an employee for taking time off to vote. In fact, according to PRNewswire, fairly substantial fines can be levied on employers who fail to allow employees time off to vote. In Kansas and Missouri, for example, an employer may be fined $2,500, while Arizona provides for corporations to be assessed up to $10,000 in fines.
If taking time off work just doesn't work for your employees, note that most polling places are open before and after work hours. Across the country, many polling stations open between 6 and 9 a.m. and close between 6 and 9 p.m. The Secretary of State in every state has more information on polling hours in your area.
Finally, anyone who says they are too busy at work to vote should consider voting absentee. This vote-by-mail option allows you vote anytime you want. Voters need only mail in their ballot on or before Election Day (state rules vary). Now you and your employees have no reason not to proudly sport the "I Voted" sticker on Election Day, 2010.