This year’s national election will be held on November 3, 2020. New York State (NYS) requires that registered voters have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote. NYS defines “sufficient time” as four hours between the opening of the polls and the start of work, or, four hours after the end of work and the closing of polls. If an employee does not have “sufficient time” to vote, then they may, under circumstances we will outline in a moment, take time off from work to vote, with no loss of pay for up to two (2) hours. Employers, you have the right to set your policy, determine whether time off can be taken at the beginning or end of the shift, and communicate that policy to your staff. Early notice to your employees will help avert potential staffing and coverage problems.
First, make sure your employees are registered voters. They can print out this information at the following website: https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/. Have them provide this to you if they are requesting time off to vote.
Second, find out when the local polls are open. If polls open at 7:00am, and your employee is due to work at 11:00am – then that employee has “sufficient time” to vote. Likewise, if the workday ends at 5:00pm, and the polls close at 9:00pm, that employee has “sufficient time” to vote. If your employee does not have four hours either at the beginning or end of the work day to vote, they may request time off, only the amount necessary to provide four hours to vote, and be reimbursed for up to two hours of pay for time missed. As an example, the workday ends at 5:30pm, polls close at 9:00pm. The employee may request to leave at 5:00pm, and receive 30 minutes of pay. If an employee wants more time than required, have them take the time out of a paid time off bank such as personal or vacation time according to your policy.
Employees are required to notify their employers of the need for time to vote. Employers must be notified “not more than ten (October 20th) nor less than two (October 30th) working days before the day of the election that he or she requires time off to vote…” Employers, take this opportunity to communicate with your employees. If you have schedules that are posted before this 10 day window, ask your staff if they anticipate needing this time so you can plan accordingly.
Employers, you have to post this notice “not less than 10 working days” before every election. This year, that date is October 20, 2020. You may also want to make this a permanent part of your employee handbook.
Encourage your employees to vote! Participation is important, and we have seen that in many local and national elections over the past several years.