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How to Help Your Employees Vote

Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP
by Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP on October 14, 2020

The 2020 presidential election is right around the corner. Although Election Day is not a federal holiday, more and more companies across the United States are encouraging their employees to vote.

Some organizations have gone so far as to develop corporate voter engagement strategies to increase voter participation throughout their companies. During the 2018 midterm election, Patagonia closed its stores for Election Day to allow workers to vote. BCBSM created voting guides to help employees understand the roles of each candidate. This year, Starbucks will partner with the rideshare service, Lyft, to provide the companies' 200,000 U.S. employees with a free ride to the polls on Election Day. Companies are providing resources and ways to make voting easier for their employees.

Read on to learn more about expectations for employers, how to actively help your employees vote, and the benefits of doing so.

As an employer, am I required to give employees time off from work to vote?

While there is no federal law mandating voting leave, most states require employers to provide their employees with time off from work to vote in an election.

Many states will impose a criminal penalty on an employer that fires or engages in an adverse employment action because an employee takes time off or requests time off to vote. No matter what state an employer operates in, the employer should not retaliate against an employee because the employee exercised his or her right to vote.

Employers should familiarize themselves with the applicable leave laws in the states in which they operate. This will help them manage time-off requests and juggle work schedules.

Employers should immediately put a plan in place to comply with their particular legal requirements, which may include notifying employees of their voting leave rights before the election.

Even if you are not required to provide time off from work there are many ways you can help your employees vote and increase voter participation. Take a look at SHRM’s list below.

Top Ways to Help Employees Vote

  • Distribute information about how, where, and when employees can vote
  • Provide tools to register and request a ballot online
  • Allow employees to use printers for absentee ballot applications, in addition to paying for postage
  • Host a voter registration event or a voting celebration
  • Adopt flexible schedules with no meetings on Election Day
  • Send emails to remind employees to register and vote
  • Encourage employees to offer child care, elder care, or rides to the polls for others in their communities to vote on Election Day
  • Give paid time off for employees to train as poll workers
  • Reduce store or office hours on Election Day to ensure that employees can vote in person
  • If possible, close entirely on Election Day

Benefits of Helping Employees Vote

Companies that help their employees vote are reaping benefits beyond increasing voter participation. According to an employer voter mobilization case study (PDF) by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School, companies point to their civic responsibility programs as a way to boost employee-employer relations, increase brand awareness, and elevate a brand’s reputation with elected officials.

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Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Tonya is the Labor Compliance Manager at FrankCrum. In this role, she leads the FrankAdvice team of HR consultants and manages the delivery and content of best practice HR information to client owners and managers. When she’s not at work, Tonya enjoys international travel.

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