By Katherine L. Wood, Esq.
Update: As we approach the upcoming presidential election, employers should be mindful of their responsibilities under New York State’s Voting Leave Law. Among employers’ responsibilities is the obligation to post a notice at least ten days prior to the election that reminds employees of their rights under the law. The required posting can be found here.
Last spring, we provided an update concerning the new paid sick leave law in New York State, which was enacted as a part of the annual state budget. Also included in the annual state budget was an amendment to the New York State Election Law concerning employee voting leave, which employers should be aware of. The new voting leave law is effective immediately.
In 2019, New York State amended its voting leave law to require employers to provide all employees up to three hours of paid time off at the beginning or end of a work shift to registered-voter employees to allow these employees time to vote. The new amendment largely reverses the 2019 amendment and reverts the law to its prior form.
Under the new law, employers must provide paid time off for voting to employees who do not have “sufficient time outside” of their “scheduled working hours.” This is an employer-friendly change, as under the 2019 version of the law, paid time off to vote had to be provided to all employees regardless of whether their work scheduled allowed them to vote before or after work or during an unpaid break.
Sufficient time to vote outside of scheduled working hours is considered four consecutive hours between the opening of the polls and the beginning of the employee’s work shift, or four consecutive hours between the end of the employee’s shift and the polls closing. Employees who do not have four consecutive hours at either the start or end of their shift may take a maximum of two hours paid time to vote. If the employee requires more than two hours to vote, the leave must still be provided, but any leave taken over two hours can be unpaid. Employers can mandate that employees take this leave at either the start or end of their scheduled work shift.
Employees must provide at least two working days’ notice that they will require time off to vote and cannot provide more than ten working days’ notice of the leave. Employers must post a notice of the voting leave laws at least ten working days’ in advance of every election.