Election Day is coming up yet again and, if you’re not one of the millions of Americans who has already cast a ballot, you might be wondering: Does my boss have to give me time off to vote?
It depends on where you live. Federal law doesn’t require employers to give employees any time off to vote, much less paid time off. Instead, the laws vary from state to state: Just 29 states and the District of Columbia currently require employers to give employees time off to vote in general elections.
Only 23 of them require that you actually get paid for that time, and those rules also vary by state. Some require up to three hours of paid time off, while other states leave it up to employers to determine what constitutes a “reasonable amount of time to vote.”
That leaves 21 states where your employer is not required to offer you any time off in order to cast your ballot next week.
Here’s a state-by-state guide:
States that mandate paid time off for voting
- Alaska (no time limit specified in the law)
- Arizona (3 hours)
- California (2 hours)
- Colorado (2 hours)
- District of Columbia (2 hours)
- Georgia (2 hours)
- Hawaii (2 hours, and employers may request proof of voting)
- Iowa (3 hours)
- Kansas (2 hours)
- Maryland (2 hours)
- Minnesota (no time limit specified)
- Missouri (3 hours, and employers may request proof of voting)
- Nebraska (2 hours)
- Nevada (between 1 and 3 hours, depending on travel distance to your polling place.)
- New Mexico (2 hours)
- New York (as much time as employers deem necessary)
- Ohio (a “reasonable” amount of time as determined by employers, and only for salaried employees)
- Oklahoma (2 hours, with more time for travel to your polling place if necessary)
- South Dakota (2 hours)
- Tennessee (3 hours)
- Texas (no time limit specified)
- Utah (2 hours at the beginning or end of your work shift)
- West Virginia (3 hours, and employers may request proof of voting)
- Wyoming (1 hour outside of your meal break, and employers may request proof of voting)
States that mandate unpaid time off for voting
- Alabama (1 hour)
- Arkansas (amount of time is up to your employer)
- Illinois (2 hours)
- Kentucky (4 hours, and employers may request proof of voting)
- Massachusetts (the first two hours that polls are open)
- Wisconsin (3 hours)
States that don’t mandate any time off to vote
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- North Dakota, which has a law “encouraging” companies to give employees time to vote, but doesn’t actually require them to do so
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
What you should expect from your employer, regardless of where you live
Lawmakers have tried — and failed — in the past to pass legislation that would make paid time off for voting a federal requirement.
“Voting should not be a luxury that only the well-off can afford,” Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) said in April, when he and a group of House Democrats introduced legislation that would require all U.S. employers to give employees at least two hours of paid leave to vote in federal elections.
That bill has yet to be brought up for a vote in Congress.
Of course, any individual company can — and should — opt to give its workers paid time off to vote, says Johnny Taylor Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a professional association based in Alexandria, Virginia.
That’s because it boosts employee morale at a minimal expense to the company. “It signals a commitment to patriotism and the responsibility to vote,” Taylor tells CNBC Make It, adding that there’s little harm to a company in showing support for the idea that “voting matters.”
Few employees may actually need that time off, Taylor notes: Roughly 70% of the more than 150 million ballots in the 2020 national election were cast before Election Day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Every state allows for some form of in-person early voting, often including weekends and other times outside of business hours. As of Tuesday morning, more than 24.33 million votes have reportedly been cast in this year’s midterm elections already, including roughly 14 million mail-in ballots.
Taking advantage of those options is a good idea, Taylor says. Anything could happen on Election Day — you could be sick, your car could break down — and if you miss it, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Your employer should help make sure you’re aware of all your voting options, Taylor adds: “A fair way to think about it is to remind employees that this is part of being an American, and it benefits them directly. So do it and remind them to [vote] whenever they can.”
Taylor says his association sends its employees weekly notes in the month leading up to Election Day to remind them of when and where they can participate in early voting, and the requirements for requesting, filling out and returning a mail-in ballot.
Some companies, including Starbucks, have provided employees with free transportation to voting centers in past elections. That can help employers give people time to vote while still having some say over when they’re away from work, Taylor says.
“We as employers cannot say, ‘Well, now that you can vote anytime you want, it’s on you,'” he says. “We still can play a role in ensuring employees are committed to their civic responsibilities.”
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