Understanding employee voting rights in New York

You can barely look up these days without seeing a political ad. The November 6 midterm election is quickly approaching, and get-out-the-vote efforts are in full swing. In New York, the polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Although you may be anxious to make your political voice heard on election day, you may also be worried about how getting to the polls will conflict with your day job. If you work a particularly long shift that day or face an especially long commute, finding time to cast your ballot before or after work could be tough. In case early voting or absentee voting aren’t options for you, the state of New York provides extra support to help employees make it to the polls.

Paid time off to vote

If you don’t have at least four consecutive hours of free time between the open of polls and the start of your shift at work—or between the end of your shift and the close of polls—then your employer must give you up to two hours of paid leave to vote. If you require more than two working hours to vote, your employer must provide this extra leave, but any time exceeding two hours does not have to be paid. In addition, your employer has the right to decide whether your time off should fall at the start or end of your shift. Any company that prevents their workers from exercising their right to vote runs the risk of losing their corporate charter.

Giving notice

If you are an employee who wishes to take time off of work to vote, it is your responsibility to anticipate needing this time off in advance. You must notify your employer of your voting leave between two and 10 working days prior to the election.

In addition, at least 10 working days prior to any election, all New York employers must post an easily visible notice, which advises their employees of their right to take time off of work to vote.

Poll workers

Any eligible voter can choose to serve as a poll worker. But in New York, your employer is not required to give you time off for this type of civic participation. Therefore, you’ll likely need to take a vacation day or personal leave to serve as a poll worker. Be sure to give your employer ample notice of your leave before election day.

Your boss may be demanding, but no boss can force you to choose between your job and your legal right to vote. It’s important to understand your rights as an employee—and to share this information with others.

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