New York’s previous law on voting leave provided that if an employee had four consecutive hours either between the opening of the polls and the beginning of their working schedule, or between the end of their working schedule and the closing of the polls, they shall be deemed to have sufficient time outside of their working hours within which to vote and they did not require paid time off from work to vote. If an employee’s work schedule did not permit them to have this four-hour window of time to vote, the employee could take up to two hours of paid time off either at the beginning or end of their schedule to vote. In order to take the two hours of voting leave, the employee would need to notify their employer not more than ten nor less than two working days prior to the day of the election.
New York’s new voting leave law took effect immediately as of April 1, 2019, and includes several changes from the previous law. First, the law now requires employers to provide up to three hours of paid time off that the employer will designate at the beginning or end of the employee’s working schedule, instead of granting only two hours of paid time off to vote be taken at the beginning or end of the employee’s working schedule. Second, this new voting leave law removed the requirement that employees could not notify their employer to request voting leave prior to ten days before the election. The new law now only requires that employees notify their employee of the need to take voting leave not less than two working days before the date of the election. Perhaps the most important change to the previous law is that the new law eliminates the presumption that an employee has sufficient time to vote if they have four consecutive hours outside of their work schedule to vote. This last change essentially guarantees employees requesting time off to vote must be granted ample paid time off to enable them to vote, up to a maximum of three hours.
Employers should note that the language of the law does not specify which elections qualify for paid voting leave under. However, the broad language of this new law can undoubtedly be interpreted to include paid time off for employees to vote in all federal, state and local elections. Employers must be sure to update their handbooks to comply with New York’s new voting leave law.