California employers are subject to a wide variety of laws providing employees with the right to take time off from work. Although California has largely moved to vote by mail, in-person voting locations will remain open, and under certain circumstances employees must be permitted to take time off from work to vote.
California’s Voting Leave Law
California’s voting leave law is intended to ensure that employees are not precluded from voting because of their work schedules. Although many will exercise their right to vote through the mail, or in some counties through the early submission of their ballots, Elections Code section 14000 regarding time off to vote remains unchanged. If an employee does not have sufficient time to vote in a statewide election outside of working hours, the employee is entitled to take off sufficient time that, when added to their non-working time, they will be able to vote.
The first two hours of voting leave is with pay, and any additional time needed is unpaid. Employers cannot require the use of vacation, sick leave, or other forms of PTO. However, to minimize the impact on the employee’s work, can require that the time off be taken at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift, unless both the employer and employee agree. If the employee knows in advance that time off will be needed for voting, they must give the employer at least two working days’ notice.
Time Off to Vote Posting
Among the numerous postings employers must provide, the Elections Code also requires the posting of a notice advising employees of the right to paid leave for the purpose of voting in statewide elections. This notice must be posted at least 10 days before a statewide election, either in the workplace or another conspicuous place where it can be seen by employees as they come and go. For those who work remotely, employers should consider how best to provide notice, such as mailing or sending an electronic copy. The required postings may be obtained from the California Secretary of State’s Office at the following link: Time Off To Vote Notices
Polling places are open between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., so at first glance, it may seem that in many circumstances leave may not be necessary, however, employers should consider whether employees are scheduled to work out of town on election day or have extended commute times that would interfere with voting when responding to a request. The consideration of a request for leave is more complicated in counties participating in California’s Voter’s Choice Act which expands early voting and allows voters to cast their ballots at any vote center within their county, including weekends. Although voting opportunities are greatly expanded, employees may fail to take advantage of those opportunities, and must still be afforded time to vote in-person if needed. Thus, upon receipt of a request, employers must consider the employee’s working hours, the county in which they are registered to vote, and the voting opportunities available at the time of the request.