Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an amendment to New York State Election Law that will grant registered voters up to three hours of paid time off to vote in public elections. The State Legislature passed the amendment as part of the state’s annual budget bill.

Under the amended Election Law, registered voters may request up to three hours off from work without loss of pay, regardless of their schedule, in order to vote in “any election.”

Many employers currently maintain “Voting Leave” or “Time Off to Vote” policies which grant up to two hours of paid time off (PTO) to vote. These policies are typically reflective of the Election Law’s previous PTO requirements, which were enacted in 1976. Under the old requirements, employees could request up to two hours of PTO to vote only if they did not have four or more hours off of work between polls opening and the start of their shift, or, four hours off of work between the end of their shift and polls closing.

The amendment removes the “four hours off” requirement and simply entitles all employees up to three hours of paid time off to vote, regardless of their schedule.

Employees must still provide notice that they will need time off to vote. The amended law requires employees to notify their employer at least two working days before an election that they will need time off to vote. Additionally, employers may require that employees take time off either at the beginning or end of their shift.

The amended law states that employees would be entitled to paid time off to vote in “any election.” The Election Law, however, only covers the following elections:

  • Elections for office for federal, state, county, city, town or village offices
  • Elections on ballot questions that are submitted to voters either statewide, countywide, citywide, town-wide or village-wide

Employees would presumably not be eligible for paid time off under the law for other elections, such as school district elections.

Still, the amended law leaves some questions for human resources and personnel professionals. It is unclear whether “paid time off” for voting must be deducted from employees’ established PTO or vacation leave banks, or, whether time off for voting leave would be a separate form of time off. Further, the amendment does not address whether employers can require a voting receipt or otherwise request proof that the employee in fact used the time off for voting.

With the upcoming election season, employers should take steps to review their current “Voting Leave” and other time-off policies and make necessary adjustments as soon as possible.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Melville, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.