With the presidential election occurring amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations may hear different requests than they have in the past. In addition to employees requesting time off to vote, employers are also experiencing more requests for time off to volunteer at the polls as a poll worker or election judge.
Traditionally, these volunteer roles have been filled by retirees. However, during the pandemic, retirees and other vulnerable individuals are choosing to stay home this year, to minimize the risk of being exposed to COVID-19. Accordingly, municipalities are recruiting volunteers from a different demographic.
State laws vary with respect to employee leave requests to serve as an election official. Employers should be familiar with employee rights as they navigate election leave requests, not only for the purpose of voting but also to volunteer as an election official. Here is a summary of the election volunteer rules where many of our members operate:
Wisconsin: Employees must provide their employer 7 days of advance notice of their request to volunteer as an election official. Employers can request documentation from the municipal clerk to substantiate the reason for leave. Unpaid leave must be granted to employees who provide advance notice.
Minnesota: Employees must provide their employer with 20 days of advance notice of their request to volunteer as an election official. Election officials will be provided with a form documenting scheduled hours and pay rate.
Minnesota employers must pay employees who volunteer as election officials but can reduce salary/wages by the amount paid by the municipality for their service. Employers cannot require employees to use vacation time. An employer can restrict the number of employees absent from work to serve as an election official to no more than 20 percent of the total workforce at a given worksite.
Illinois: Employees must provide their employer 20 days of advance notice of their request to volunteer as an election official. Employers can request documentation to substantiate the reason for leave. Unpaid leave must be granted to employees who provide advance notice. An employer can restrict the number of employees absent from work to serve as an election official to no more than 10 percent of the total workforce at a given worksite. Employers with fewer than 25 employees do not need to grant leave.
Iowa: Employers may allow paid time off to employees who wish to serve as a precinct election official. If employers do not allow paid time off, the respective county auditor will pay individuals for training and time spent working at the polls. While there is no designated number of days for notice, employees should let their employer know in advance of their involvement in election day polling. Volunteering at the polls is considered a civic responsibility supported by the Iowa Secretary of State during COVID and employers cannot penalize an employee for volunteering.
If questions remain about time off related to voting, MRA members can contact the HR Hotline at email@example.com or 866-HR-Hotline 866.474.6854. MRA has also developed a short video answering frequently asked questions by employers.