Question: With the presidential primary elections coming up next month, some of my employees have asked if they can take off time during the workday to vote.  Can I just tell them that voting is a personal matter, and they have to take care of it on their own time?
Answer: Due to high interest in this year’s elections, it is anticipated that more employees than usual will be voting.  To encourage voting in elections, the majority of states, including California, have specific laws about an employer’s obligation to allow employees time off to vote.  California Election Code section 14000 sets forth several requirements with which all employers, regardless of size, must comply.  These requirements cannot be waived.
Pursuant to the statute, if an employee does not have enough time outside of working hours to vote at a statewide election and asks for time off to vote, the employer must allow the employee to take off enough working time that, when added to the voting time available outside of working hours, will enable that employee to vote.  The employer must provide this time off with pay, but there is a limit on the amount of paid time off the employer must allow.
The employer is required to allow the employee no more than two hours of paid time off to vote.  Additionally, the time taken must be either at the beginning or end of the employee’s regular work shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from the regular working shift.  For example, if an employee asks to take the two hours off in the middle of the day, the employer can turn down the request, but offer instead that the employee take the time at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift.
An employee must give the employer advance notice of his or her request for the time off and cannot just call the employer on the day of the election and say that he or she will be arriving late or leaving early because he or she wants to vote.  More specifically, if, on the third working day before election day, the employee knows or has reason to believe that time off will be necessary to be able to vote on election day, the employee must give the employer at least two working days’ notice that time off for voting is desired.  Since Election Day is generally on a Tuesday in California, that means that an employee must give his or her employer notice no later than the Friday before Election Day.
Not less than ten days before every statewide election, employers must post a notice setting forth the right of employees to time off with pay to vote.  Therefore, for the upcoming June 7 election, the notice must be posted no later than May 27, and for the election on November 8, it must be posted no later than October 28.  The notice can be found in various languages at the following website: http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/time-vote-notices/.
Finally, if an employee is serving as an election official on Election Day, an employer must allow the employee the time off, without pay, and cannot discipline the employee because of that absence.