Taking Time Off for Voting and Jury Duty

The laws of almost every state require employers to allow employees to take time off work to vote or participate in jury duty. These laws vary widely in the details, however -- some require employers to provide paid leave while others do not, some allow employers to require employees to provide written proof that they voted or were called for jury service, and some actually impose criminal penalties on an employer who fires or otherwise penalizes an employee for taking time off work in order to vote or appear for jury duty.

Voting

Almost every state prohibits employers from disciplining or firing an employee who takes time off work to vote. Some state laws require employers to give their employees a specific amount of time off to cast their ballots. In some states, this time off must be paid; in others, it may be unpaid.

The obligations of these laws do not fall entirely on the employer, however. In some states, employees are entitled to time off only if they don't have enough time to get to the polls before or after work. Other states allow employees to take advantage of these laws only if they meet certain requirements, like proving that they actually cast ballots or giving their employers notice, in advance, that they intend to take time off work to vote. You can find more information on leave requirements -- including a summary of each state's law regarding time off to vote -- in Your Rights in the Workplace, by Barbara Kate Repa (Nolo).

In addition to these state law protections, you should check your employee handbook or other personnel policies for information on time off for voting. Some employers voluntarily adopt policies providing paid leave to cast a ballot. 

 

Jury Duty

Some employers doggedly resist the idea of allowing employees to take time off for jury duty -- and apply subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) pressure on them to try to get out of serving. Recognizing this problem, most states prohibit employers from firing or disciplining employees called to serve on a jury. Some states go farther and prohibit employers from trying to discourage or intimidate employees from serving on a jury.

In some states, employers may require employees to provide proof that they were called for jury duty before they take any time off work.

For most employees, the most important issue is whether or not they will be paid for time spent on jury duty. Unless your employer's handbook or other personnel policies state otherwise, employees in most states are not entitled to be paid for time off work spent responding to a summons or serving on a jury. However, a handful of states do require employers to provide at least some pay for this time off.

Some states provide additional protections for employees -- for example, that employees may use accrued paid leave for the time they spend on jury duty or that workers on the night shift may not be required to work if they are serving on a jury during the day. For information on your state's requirements, contact your state labor department. You can find more information on leave requirements -- including a summary of each state's law regarding time off for jury service -- in Your Rights in the Workplace, by Barbara Kate Repa (Nolo).

If you want some advice from a lawyer, Nolo's Lawyer Directory can help you find a local employment lawyer.

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