Tomorrow, people across the United States will hit the polls, embarking upon the time-honored tradition of casting their vote. Because Election Day falls on a Tuesday, it can make a trip to the polls tricky for some employees, especially those who are juggling family and other commitments. Recognizing this challenge, many employers across the country provide time off for their employees to vote. While there is no federal law mandating this, some states have enacted legislation stipulating that employers must give their employees notice about their voting rights and provide either paid or unpaid time off to vote. Even if your state has no such law, it’s good practice to encourage your employees to exercise their right to vote. In any case, you should have a thorough understanding of the law in your state and plan accordingly come Election Day.
The United States was founded upon the principles of democracy, and a key American tenet is the right to vote. Sadly, about four out of ten eligible registered voters did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. Voter turnout for midterm elections – such as this year’s – tends to be even lower. The reasons are many, but often boil down to time constraints; with jobs, child care, and other responsibilities, it can be difficult for many to make it to the polls before they close. This is especially true for single parents or those who live in rural communities. Voting by mail is a trend catching on in some states, but unless and until the practice is adopted nationwide, many people simply won’t be able to vote.
This is where businesses can help out. Encouraging employees to vote by offering paid time off – even just a couple of hours – can make a tremendous difference. Some companies are taking things a step farther and making Election Day a corporate holiday. Providing employees with valuable information on early voting and absentee voting is another helpful step to take. Some may be unaware of these popular alternatives to the traditional Election Day visit to the polls.
If you do give employees time off to vote, it’s likely you’ll benefit in the long run. Studies show providing employees with opportunities to participate in civic and community activities improves morale and job performance.
Study the Laws
If your state has employee-leave laws, study them prior to Election Day to make sure you understand the requirements, which can be very specific. Even if your state doesn’t have any such laws, it’s possible there may be local voting leave ordinances in your city, so check those out, too.
Regardless of whether or not your state has voting leave laws, it’s good practice to create a policy specifically outlining your company’s employee rights on Election Day. Do keep in mind that it’s never a good idea to deny your employees the right to vote; doing so can lead to harsh penalties and may even open the door to potential litigation.
We urge flexibility on Election Day. After all, there are many countries in the world where people aren’t even allowed to vote. Letting your workers exercise their patriotic duty is sure to reap rewards!