With the presidential primary season approaching, employees will cast their votes, possibly during work hours.
While federal law remains silent on the issue, at least 32 states require private companies to offer employees time off to vote if the polls are not open during employees' off-work time.
You don't need to provide paid time off if the polls are open a certain amount of time—usually two or three hours—while the employee is off duty. To read your state's law on the issue, click on an interactive map at www. toolkit.cch.com/text/p05_4335.asp.
Advice: To make sure all employees understand the rules, find out your state law, and set a policy based on that law. Encourage workers to vote, but explain whether it's paid or unpaid time off for hourly workers.
Here's how one retail company handled its policy: "On Election Days, employees are encouraged to vote, but they are expected to do so either before or after work. If there are extenuating circumstances, arrangements can be made with the supervisor for unpaid time off to vote."
Here's how a marketing association penned its policy: "Employees will be given two hours off when necessary to vote in federal, state and local elections. Requests for such leave must be submitted in writing to the personnel manager at least 48 hours in advance of the election."
Final tip: Never try to steer employees toward one candidate or another. Almost every state forbids employers from using threats or employment consequences to influence an employee's vote.