NEW YORK — A sign in the window of a clothing store in Manhattan is already putting shoppers on notice: It will be closed on Election Day so employees will have time to vote.
Companies aren’t required to shut down Nov. 6, but many give their staffers paid time off to go to the polls — 44 percent, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, a nationwide trade group. Small business owners who wonder what to do should first check their state and local laws.
Employees in Nebraska whose work shift covers the entirety of voting time, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central or 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mountain time, can apply under state law for paid time off to vote. Workers who qualify cannot have their pay docked. But anyone whose shift ends in time for them to have two consecutive hours off the clock during voting hours will have to vote on their own time, the Secretary of State’s Office confirms.
There’s no federal law requiring employers to give staffers time off to vote, but a majority of the states do. Many states provide for two hours of paid time off to vote, but the laws vary widely in how much time companies must give, and when they must give it. For example:
» California says employers must give workers sufficient time to vote either at the beginning or end of their shifts but can agree to time during the shift. Employers are only required to pay for up to two hours of time off.
» Kentucky gives workers four hours and gives bosses the right to determine what hours staffers can take to vote.
» New York provides for two hours off; however, if an employee has four hours off during voting hours, there is no required time off.
» Minnesota’s law is more liberal. It says a staffer has the right to take “the time necessary” to vote, and to be paid for that time.
Some states also require employees to give bosses notice that they’ll need time off to vote; how much notice varies from state to state.
As long as owners are meeting the requirements of state and local laws, they can make their own policies on time off for voting. Many companies are more liberal than the laws require — the Society for Human Resources Management survey also found that 29 percent of companies give their staff more unpaid time off to vote than their state laws require.
In March, Vote.org, a nonprofit aimed at increasing voter turnout, launched ElectionDay.org, an initiative for companies to encourage voter participation by giving employees paid time off. On the list of about 300 participating companies are Etsy, Patagonia and Levi Strauss.
More and more Illinois-based companies are going beyond the letter of the law in allowing Election Day time off.
Centro, a Chicago-based advertising technology company, is giving its 700 employees in more than 20 states a half-day off on Election Day to encourage voter turnout among its mostly millennial workforce. Centro CEO Shawn Riegsecker, who considers himself a political independent, said there is no partisanship in his Election Day time-off policy.
David MacNeil, a megadonor to President Donald Trump’s inauguration and founder of car floor mat manufacturer WeatherTech, said employees would all get enough time off to vote.
SRW, a Chicago advertising agency, is giving its staff of 25 a paid day off on Election Day.
“We encourage everybody, regardless of their opinion, to express it, and the best way to express it is to vote,” said Charlie Stone, co-founder and CEO of the agency. “You’re more likely to vote if you’re paid to vote.”
Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
World-Herald staff writer Aaron Sanderford contributed to this report, which also includes material from the Chicago Tribune.