Time Off to Vote Rules

It’s that time of year again.  The general election voting day in Georgia is tomorrow, November 4.  I reminded my readers in May that the same rules for giving employees time off to vote for general elections also apply to primary elections.  If the experts are right, after tomorrow’s vote, we will have one or more run-off elections to look forward to in Georgia to which the following rules will also apply.

Georgia law requires an employer to give their employees up to two hours off to exercise their right to vote in any type of election. However, the law only applies if the employee’s normal working hours begin less than two hours before the polls open or end less than two hours before the polls close.  Thus, if the employee’s normal working hours are 9 am to 5 pm, they are not entitled to receive time off to vote, if the polls open at 7 am or earlier and close at 7 pm or later, which is the case in most elections held in Georgia.

For those employers who are required to give their employee’s time off to vote, the employee is required to give the employer “reasonable notice” of their desire to take such time off, and the employer can specify the hours during which the employee can take that time off.  If the employee is nonexempt (i.e., must be paid overtime for any hours worked in excess of 40 during any one work week), the employer does not have to pay the employee for the time taken off to vote.  If the employee is exempt, the employer can not reduce their pay for the time taken off to vote, but may require the employee to use any paid time off available to the employee, if that paid time off is normally accounted for in increments that small.

All the experts are predicting very close races for the governor’s office and the U.S. Senate, which means that in those races, at least, every vote will count.  All employers should encourage their employees to vote and should vote themselves, if they have not already done so.