Election Day is Not a Holiday, But State Law Requires Time Off for Voting

The November 6, 2018, mid-term elections are approaching, and that means an important deadline is creeping up on California employers. Under state law, employers must post a notice to employees 10 days before an election advising them of provisions for taking paid leave for the purpose of voting in statewide elections, under California Elections Code section 14001.

A majority of U.S. states have time-off-to-vote laws, also known as voter-leave laws. These laws vary by state; employers with multiple locations should make sure each workplace complies with respective state laws. Noncompliance can result in civil and criminal penalties.

In California, state law provides that employees are eligible for paid time off for the purpose of voting only if they do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote. The intent of the law is to provide an opportunity to vote to workers who would not be able to do so because of their jobs. Polls in California are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. But given the excessive hours that some California workers must commute, it is not unreasonable to think that it could be difficult to access the polls on Election Day without cutting into the workday.

Employees can be given as much time as they need in order to vote, but under California law only a maximum of two hours is paid. Additionally, employers may require employees to give advance notice that they will need additional time off for voting. Employers may also require time off to be taken only at the beginning or end of the employee's shift.

Employers can find copies of the notice here, in English as well as nine other languages.

Some employers go “all out” in encouraging their employees to participate in elections. Patagonia, the outdoor apparel retailer headquartered in Ventura, CA, will close all of its retail stores on Election Day to encourage voter participation. Other large employers, including General Motors and Ford Motor Co., have in past years given its workforce a paid holiday on Election Day in order to encourage civic participation.

Employers with questions about their obligations under various state voting laws should consult labor and employment counsel.