Commentary: The leaves are changing, and the air is turning cooler. While employers are gearing up for fall, voting leave may be far from their minds. After all, even though the presidential candidates are in full swing campaign mode, the “real” election is over a year away, right?

As an employer, I can rest easy not worrying about pesky voting affecting my employees. Not so fast. While the “big” presidential election is still a year away, employers must be mindful of smaller elections that take place across the state and municipal levels. And, these elections are not just held in November.

Also see:Nestlé joins Netflix, Adobe and others in paid-leave movement.

Elections, however small, may trigger an employer’s obligations to give employees leave to vote. Even where there is no specific law requiring an employer to give time off, many states prohibit employers from disciplining or firing an employee who takes time off to vote. Some state laws require employers to give their employees a specific amount of time off to cast their ballots. Other states go even farther, with laws on the books that mandate that this time off must be paid.

Employers should know that these voting laws are anything but uniform and run the spectrum in terms of variety and protections. In California for example, employees may take time off at the beginning or end of a shift to allow for sufficient time to vote, with up to two hours of that time being with pay. In New York state, if an employee does not already have four consecutive non-working hours off before polls close, you must give them two hours of paid leave to vote.

In addition to state and local law protections, employers should check their employee handbook or other personnel policies for information on time off for voting. Some employers voluntarily adopt policies or enter into collective bargaining agreements providing paid leave to cast a ballot.

Also see:Massachusetts' sick time law: What employers need to know.

On top of voting protections, employers should also be mindful of a myriad of other, lesser known leaves that are popping up across states and municipalities. These protections – commonly referred to as “small necessities” or “school activities” leave were discussed in detail in a prior post in August.

Now is the time to dust off the employee handbook and be sure all of these leave policies, and the myriad of others not mentioned in this article, are up to date.

Christina Kennedy is an associate and litigation attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP, where her practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, class and collective actions, and employment litigation. This article originally appeared on the Foley & Lardner website.

The information in this legal alert is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal advice.

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