Election 2016: A look at states that require employers to offer PTO for voting

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The debates, the smear campaigns, the 24-hour media circus — it will all be over Tuesday.

While Americans breathe a sigh of relief for the end of one of the most controversial presidential campaigns in our nation’s history, they still need to go out and vote. However, a large portion of Americans — 42.5% in 2012 — do not.

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While there are many reasons to not vote — being sick, forgetting to do so, disliking the candidates —28% of registered voters said they were “too busy” to vote, according to 2014 U.S. Census data.

“Too busy” should no longer be a viable excuse for employers or employees. Four million votes have already been cast through absentee and early voting; the Pew Research Center estimates that up to 50 million votes will be cast through alternative methods.

Twenty-three states also offer paid time off for voting. While no federal law mandates voting leave, each state has its own set of requirements for private sector employers.

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In New York, voters without four consecutive non-working hours to vote before the polls open and close receive two paid hours to vote.

Meanwhile, Ohio mandates that employers cannot fire or threaten to fire an employee for taking a reasonable amount of time to vote, although only salaried employees are paid for that time.

Six states, including Massachusetts and Alabama, allow employees to take unpaid time off to vote. Connecticut, where online HR resource HR360 is located, does not require that employers offer time off to vote.

The company, based in South Norwalk, designed an interactive map to help employers nationwide discern the kind of leave they need to offer Nov. 8.

“Is it paid leave? Unpaid leave?” says Tom Ceconi, co-founder of HR360. “And really, what are my obligations to my employees?

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While Connecticut has no specific law requiring time off to vote, HR360 is offering employees paid time off to vote for a particularly “heated” election, Ceconi says.

“We think it’s important for everyone to cast their vote,” he says. “We communicate that via a group email system. We just informed everyone they can go out and do their civic duty.”

Certain states have additional rules regarding time off to vote, so employers are strongly advised to review the applicable state law and contact a knowledgeable employment law attorney for further guidance. Any employer violating its state voting leave statute may be subject to penalties and fines.

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