Next week on November 8, voters will head to the polls around the country for our midterm elections for the U.S. House, certain Senate seats, governorships, and other elected offices. And while voters are headed to the polls, employers should remember that they may have a requirement to provide time off to employees to vote.

For example, in Tennessee, an employee who is eligible to vote may be absent from work for a “reasonable period of time” (not more than three hours) to vote. Tennessee employers cannot penalize an employee for being absent from work to vote and cannot reduce the employee’s pay as a result of the absence. So, voting leave in Tennessee should be paid leave. The only exception to the law requiring paid leave to vote is if an employee’s shift begins three or more hours after the opening of the polls (typically 10 a.m. or later) or ends three or more hours before the closing of the polls (typically 4 p.m. or earlier). Under those circumstances, the employer does not have to give the employee time off to vote. Tennessee employees may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent to vote. An employee seeking time off to vote must request time off to vote before noon the day before the election.

Other states within Bradley’s footprint have similar laws requiring employers to grant leave – sometimes paid, sometimes unpaid – to employees who are voters:

Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia do not appear to have voting leave statutes. If an employer is unclear about whether a particular state requires employers to provide time off (paid or unpaid) to vote, and the particulars of any such leave, then the employer should consult legal counsel. Happy voting!

Source: Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

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