Employers, take note: New York State’s Election Law was recently amended as part of the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget amendments, and the changes have important, immediate implications for employers.   

As of April 12, 2019, Election Law § 3–110 requires that employees in New York who are registered voters may request and receive up to three hours paid time off to vote, regardless of their work schedule and without loss of pay. (Previously, the law allowed for an employee to request up to two hours of paid time off to vote, but only if the employee didn’t have four or more consecutive hours off between either the time the polls opened and the start of their shift, or the end of their shift and the time the polls closed.) Every employer must post the new Election Law requirements in a noticeable place, accessible to all employees and on company grounds, at least 10 days prior to every election, and leave the notice up through at least the close of the polls on Election Day. Additionally, employee handbooks need to be updated to reflect the new Election Law requirements.

Employees are allowed time off to vote only at the beginning or at the end of their work shift, at the employer’s discretion, unless another time is agreed upon between employee and employer. Employees must also notify their employer at least two days prior to an election if they require time off to vote. Notably, the time off is “up to” three hours, not three hours.

This law applies to all elections under the Election Law in its entirety—including primary and special elections. Specifically, the Election Law covers federal, state, county, city, town, or village office elections, as well as elections on ballot questions that are submitted to voters either state, county, city, town, or village-wide.  It does not apply to school district, fire district, or library district elections and budget votes, as these are generally governed by laws other than the Election Law.

The amended law does not indicate whether an employer is permitted to request proof of voter registration or require a voting receipt or other proof that the employee actually used their time off to vote. The law is also silent as to whether an employer may deduct paid time off to vote from an employee’s established paid time off (PTO) or if employers may instead create a separate category of time off specifically for voting. Please contact us to discuss your specific situation.

Changes such as this one can leave businesses, especially small businesses, scrambling to stay on top of the requirements and at increased risk for non-compliance. For any questions about how to implement these changes at your organization in the least disruptive way possible, please contact our office.