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Ask the Hotline – Time Off to Vote

Posted on October 17, 2022


Does our company have to give time off to vote, and if so, does the time have to be paid?


With election day looming on November 8, employers may need a reminder of their obligations with respect to voting.  You are required to provide time off for voting when it is timely requested, and the time may be unpaid or covered by available paid time off.

The voting-leave statute provides employees who need it a brief leave of absence from work for voting. The law provides that with advance notice to the employer, an employee may take up to two hours in the morning to vote before coming to work. The time off may be unpaid. The law was originally passed in 1887 and was last amended more than one hundred years ago in 1913.

As most polling places are now open for 12 or more hours, and with the recent increase in mail-in ballots, use of this law has significantly diminished. But if an employee requests time off to vote on election day, the time should be granted.  The employer may request that the employee prove that she or he has voted by providing the name of the precinct where the ballot was cast.

Many employer handbooks include a brief paragraph reminding employees of this right.

Employers should also be aware of another Massachusetts law related to voting. Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 56, §33 explicitly prohibits employers from influencing the votes of employees. The law also provides specific penalties for employers who violate this law.

The statute makes clear that it is illegal to threaten an employee with any adverse consequence at work such as termination, reduction of wages or any other retaliatory action to influence their vote or political contribution. The penalty for violation of this law is a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than six months or both.

As elections become more contentious and political debate occasionally spills over into the workplace, employers must be vigilant to ensure that nobody in a position of authority in the company takes any action that may appear to influence an employee’s vote or political contribution. Employers should also liberally interpret the law requiring time off for voting to avoid the appearance of interfering with the employee’s right to vote.

AIM members interested in discussing this or any other HR-related issue may contact the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.