In its 2019-2020 budget, New York made several changes to the state’s election laws. This includes a major expansion of the law regarding time off from work to vote. Employers must now allow up to 3 hours of paid voting leave for registered voters for every election.
Old Voting Leave Law
In the past, New York employers had to give some registered voters 2 hours of paid time off. Employees could only insist on paid voting leave if they did not have 4 consecutive hours between either the opening of the polls and the beginning of their working shift or the end of their working shift and the closing of the polls.
Employees who had less than 4 consecutive hours before or after their shifts to vote could take off so much
working time as would when added to their voting time outside their working hours enable them to vote. But employers would never have to pay an employee for more than two hours of the time off to vote.
New Paid Voting Leave Obligations
Now employers have to give more paid voting leave to more employees.
The “4 consecutive hours” criteria are gone. All employees now apparently have a legal right to paid voting leave.
And the 2-hour maximum has increased to 3 hours.
The law still retains language suggesting employees may only take so much time as necessary to enable them to vote. And they only have the right to take time either at the beginning or end of the shift, unless they agree otherwise with the employer.
Employees must notify their employers at least two days in advance that they “require” time off to vote to invoke the law’s protections.
Notice of Employee Rights
As before, employers must post a notice containing the paid voting leave law’s provisions at least 10 days before every election. Some employers choose to keep the notice posted at all times to ensure compliance. That is an acceptable practice. The notice must at least remain up until the polls close on election day.
The paid voting leave law applies to all elections in New York where voters nominate or elect people to any federal, state, county, city, town, or village office.
Penalty for Violation
Any person or corporation who does not allow an eligible employee to take time off or who reduces an employee’s pay for taking time off to vote as required can be found guilty of a criminal misdemeanor.
An employee who loses pay required under the law may be able to recover it through the Department of Labor or a lawsuit. Additional penalties might apply.
What Employers Must Do
Many employers will have to give employees time off to vote where they didn’t before. The law is now vague enough that virtually any employee could request paid time off to vote. Employers will have to get more information from some employees to determine their obligations under the law.
In the meantime, employers should obtain copies of the new law (available here) to post in advance of elections. You should also review your employee handbook or other policies and revise them as necessary.
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