New York has had voting leave for years, but in 2019 the state increased the number of paid hours from two to three. They have now reduced that number back down to two. Although all voters in New York will be able to vote by absentee ballot in the upcoming election because of COVID-19, employers may not require this; if an employee wants to vote in person, they have the right to do so. Additionally, employers may not require proof that an employee voted.
Employees in New York must be provided enough time off so that they have four consecutive hours to vote either before or after work. Up to two hours of any time taken off work to vote must be paid. The employer may decide whether time is taken at the start or end of the employee’s shift.
Here are some examples based on polls being open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.:
- An employee usually works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They do not need to be provided with any time off because they have four hours between the end of their shift and the closure of polls.
- An employee usually works from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The employer must provide either two paid hours off in the morning or one paid hour off in the evening.
- An employee usually works from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Although it would require less time off work to vote in the morning, and would be the employee’s preference, the employer absolutely needs the employee to start at 8 a.m. that day, so instead of time off in the morning, the employer will allow the employee to leave at 5 p.m. Although the employee will be taking three hours off work, only two hours need to be paid. (If the employee only wants two hours off, the employer should not make them take more.)
Employers may require that employees ask for leave at least two working days in advance. Employees may not be required to use other leave time to vote (e.g., PTO, vacation, personal, or sick time).
Employers must post a notice about voting leave rights, available here, at least 10 days before every election (or as soon as possible if you have not posted it yet) and leave the notice up until the close of polls on Election Day. As a practical matter, it is probably easiest to leave the voting leave notice up year-round.