On April 12, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the annual budget bill. Included in the bill is an amendment to Election Law § 3-110 regarding time allowed employees to vote. The amendment: (1) makes paid time off for voting available for all employees, not solely those who might not have had sufficient time to vote before or after work; and (2) increases the amount of paid time off for voting from two hours to three. The changes will impact almost all employers across New York, and go into effect immediately.
Under the previous version of the statute, an employee whose work schedule was such that there were less than four hours during which polls were open either prior to the start of his or her work day or after the end of his or her work day was entitled to take up to two hours of paid time off to enable him or her to vote. For elections with long voting hours, such as between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., only employees who started their work day before 10:00 a.m. and completed their work day after 5:00 p.m. were able to take up to two hours of paid time off to vote. The statute now permits any employee to take up to three hours off, without loss of pay, to enable him or her to vote, regardless of his or her work schedule.
The law is applicable to any elections at which a New York voter may cast a ballot to elect an individual to any party position or nominating or electing an individual to any federal, state, county, city, town or village office, or deciding any ballot question submitted to all voters of the state, or to voters of any county or city, or any ballot question submitted to town or village voters during a general election. Election Law § 1-110. Thus, paid time off for voting is not available for school district elections/budget votes or bond votes.
In order to take time off to vote, an employee must notify his or her employer no less than two work days prior to the election. A requirement that the notification be made no more than ten work days in advance of the election was eliminated by the amendment. This will also likely expand the number of employees who take advantage of the statute.
The remaining provisions of the statute remain unchanged. The time off must be taken either at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift, as designated by the employer, unless otherwise mutually agreed. Employers must post, no less than ten work days before every election, a notice explaining the requirements of Election Law § 3-110, and must keep the information posted until the close of polls on election day.
The impact of the amendment may be considerable. With the expanded applicability of the law, and the ability of employees to take three hours off rather than two, employers will have to plan whether and how to maintain operations with a significant number of employees absent at the beginning or end of their work day. For school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), with set schedules, including transportation schedules, together with limited availability of substitutes, implementation could, practically speaking, require that schools close for elections. New York’s Association of School Business Officials has publicly suggested a letter-writing campaign to state legislators seeking to exempt school districts and BOCES from the statute. See State Update: Paid Time Off for Employees to Vote.
In the meantime, New York employers must plan for upcoming primaries and November elections. Employers should ensure that their notice regarding the availability of paid time off to vote and any applicable policies are updated to comply with the amended statute.
Should you have any questions, please contact Susan Fine, Esq.