With early voting already underway in some states and November 3 just around the corner, you may be wondering about your obligations as an employer to provide your employees the opportunity to vote. These questions are particularly important in light of the current pandemic and the high political tensions at play during this election. Here are three steps you can take to prepare your business and workforce.
- Understand your state’s laws. Many states have jurisdiction-specific laws regarding employer obligations to employees. These laws typically address
- providing time off to vote,
- requiring notice to take time off,
- illegally influencing votes, and
- illegally firing employees for participation in the civic process.
These laws may provide for time off for regular election days and individuals submitting absentee ballots. The scope of coverage depends on the jurisdiction in question. In some cases, employers are obligated to provide paid time off for employees who would like to vote. Other states mandate time off, but the time is unpaid. Keep in mind that many of these laws have notice requirements. Some states require employees to provide notice of their intent to vote within a particular time frame. Employees may also be required to provide their employers with proof of the fact that they voted.
- Develop and communicate an internal policy. If you do not have an internal system that governs how your business will handle election day and voting time, make it a priority to create one. In developing your approach, keep your state’s laws in mind. Additionally, implement safeguards by outlining the exact steps employees should follow if they want to take time off. It is also prudent to consider providing guidelines for staffing and shifts during election day.
- Provide neutral and fair treatment regarding voting. To the extent that you choose to provide time off, accommodations, and a generally supportive work environment, ensure that all of your employees receive fair and consistent treatment. Some states statutorily prohibit employers from influencing how employees vote, with criminal or civil liability imposed for any violation. Moreover, in instances where an employer treats an employee differently based on the employee’s political views, the employer may be exposing itself to litigation if its activity is found to have violated employment laws regarding equal treatment.
Let Us Help You
If you are in the process of reviewing or revising your internal policies regarding elections and other matters related to the operation of your business, we can help. Call our office today to schedule a virtual consultation to discuss the policies and procedures you need in place as an employer to comply with state law and facilitate the efficient operation of your business. We will guide you as you navigate the laws of your jurisdiction.