Time Off for Democracy: California Voting Leave
With the November 3rd election day right around the corner, California employers are reminded that despite the availability of mail-in and early voting options, employers must still comply with California law in providing time off to vote on election day.
California Elections Code section 14000 requires employers to provide employees with sufficient time off to vote, at the beginning or end of the regular working shift (whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least amount of time off from work), if the employee does not have sufficient time to do so during non-work hours on election day. Since polls are usually open between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on election day, most employees will typically have enough time to vote outside of work hours (two to three consecutive non-working hours between the opening and closing of the polls is usually deemed sufficient). However, some employees may need additional time off depending on factors such as how far the employee lives from work (in order to get to their polling station), the employee’s regularly scheduled shift that day, and the reduced availability of polling places due to COVID-19. Thus, employers should plan ahead. But even if more time off from work is granted, only up to the first two hours of time off must be paid.
Employees should provide their employer with two working days’ notice before the election if they would not have enough time to vote during non-work hours and need to take time off for this purpose. This will allow employers to plan for adequate coverage to ensure that all employees can take the appropriate time off.
Employers also need to be mindful of the fact that California Election Code section 12312 prohibits disciplining or discharging employees for taking time off work to serve as election officials on election day. However, employers are not required to pay employees for the time they are absent from work to serve as election officials.
Employers in California should have already informed employees of their right to time off to vote by posting a notice, in a visible location, at least ten days prior to the election. For employees working remotely, employers should consider emailing the notice or otherwise ensuring employees are aware of their rights under the law. Employers may use this sample notice for this purpose.