The upcoming 2020 election is already one of the most divisive in recent history. Most managers want to keep politics out of the office, however, that may simply not be possible this year. With some people spending hours in line to vote early, businesses may be wondering if they’re legally required to allow their employees off work to vote. 

Not Every State Requires Time Off To Vote

Every state has different laws regarding employees’ right to vote. In the gulf south we have the following requirements:

  • Louisiana – In Louisiana there are no current laws that require companies to give their employees time off to vote in elections. Employers that have a workforce of more than 20 employees are legally prohibited from interfering with their employees’ political activities or affiliations. This means that employers should not tell their employees that they can’t volunteer, vote or do any other political activity when they’re off the clock. 
  • Georgia – In Georgia, businesses are required to allow their employees two hours off work as unpaid leave to vote. The employees must provide reasonable notice that they intend to use this time off, and they are not required to prove that they voted during that time off. The employer is allowed to determine when these hours are used.
  • Mississippi – In Mississippi, there are no laws that explicitly state that employees have time off to vote. However, there are laws that prohibit businesses to increase or decrease any worker’s pay based on their political affiliation or who they vote for. 

This means that only businesses in Georgia are required to give their employees two unpaid hours off in order to vote. 

Allowing Employees Leave To Vote

Just because time off to vote is not legally required in Louisiana or Mississippi, doesn’t mean it is not good practice to allow workers time off regardless. As a small business, we know that it’s often “all hands on deck”. However, especially in this very critical year, denying an employee time off to vote could decrease morale, become a public relations nightmare, and it would simply be a poor business and management decision.

As a small business owner, there are several ways in which you can keep your business running effectively while providing opportunities for your employees to exercise their right to vote. For instance, you can encourage employees to vote early in order to bypass long lines on election day or encourage employees to stagger the times that want to leave the office to go vote. The key is to be flexible and supportive. 

This election, in particular, has many people deeply emotionally invested. This can cause friction between employees that would normally work together peacefully. As a manager, it’s important to ensure that employees are able to work together respectfully and act swiftly if any discourse turns into harassment. Making sure that every employee knows that they can take time off, if needed, to vote can help to ensure everyone feels respected. 

Transcendent Law Group provides legal counsel to startups, small businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions to help them make strategic and informed decisions. We’re also highly experienced in labor and employment law and passionate about Diversity and Inclusion. Contact us today to learn more!