Time Off From Work For Voting Under Illinois Law
Labor and Employment 10/28/20 Gary Clark, William Walden, Kaitlin Phillips
As Election Day fast approaches, it is important for Illinois employers to be mindful of their obligations to employees seeking time off from work to vote on November 3, 2020. Illinois is one of many states that provides for time away from work for employees on Election Day. The following is an overview of Illinois law:
- Illinois employees entitled to vote have a right to be absent from work for a period of up to two successive hours between the opening and the closing of polls.
- The two-hour absence for voting may only occur during times when the polls are open. In Illinois, polls are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- Employees are entitled to take time off from work only if they have applied or informed their employer of the need for time away from work before Election Day.
- Only individuals “entitled to vote” in a general or special election (or any election in which propositions are submitted to popular vote) are entitled to be absent for two hours to vote. Employers can request proof of an employee’s eligibility to vote when evaluating a request for time off to vote. To show eligibility, employees can submit a copy of their voter registration card for review. Employees can also demonstrate registration status on the following website:
- In most instances, employers can encourage employees to vote at specific times that do not conflict with work commitments. For example, an employer may specify that an employee whose shift ends at 3:00 p.m. must vote between 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. When the conflict with work is unavoidable, the employer can determine the specific two-hour window during which the employee will be absent from work to vote.
- When an employee’s work hours begin less than two hours after polls open (6:00 a.m.) and end less than two hours before polls close (7:00 p.m.), the employer must grant two hours off work for voting. In such cases, the lack of a two-hour window outside of an employee’s work shift necessitates the time off work. The employer can, however, choose the specific two hour window during which the employee will be absent from work.
- For example, an employer would be required to allow a two-hour absence during work hours for an employee scheduled to work from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Such an employee both began a shift less than two hours after polls opened and ended the shift less than two hours before they closed.
- Employers may not subject employees to any penalties for time off to vote. Similarly, employees who must take time off to vote are entitled to be paid for this time off.
- Illinois employers with 25 or more employees are also required to accommodate employees engaging in election-related activities, such as serving as an election judge. An employee appointed to serve as an election judge is entitled to be absent from work for serving in that capacity. Once again, however, there are limitations on this right:
- An employee must give his or her employer at least 20 days written notice of his or her absence.
- Although an employer cannot penalize an employee for being absent to serve as an election judge, employers are not required to pay the employee for their time away from work.
This particular election year, employers should anticipate that employee absences may be greater than two hours due to delays caused by COVID-19 safety protocols and long lines. Employers should proactively remind employees that they must follow the company’s standard call-in procedures to report their extended absence and that they will be required to use company provided paid time off for any time missed beyond the two hours granted by this law.
If you have any questions regarding employer obligations to your employees on Election Day, please contact your Quarles & Brady attorney or: