The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Time Off for Voting: Do You Get Paid Leave?

Are you working a 12-hour shift? If not, then you probably don’t get paid time off for voting.

There are two ways to get time off for voting. The first is simply having an accommodating boss. The second is by Illinois’ state law, which provides a limited set of circumstances in which an employee is entitled to paid time off.

One would be wise to remember that state and federal laws provide the bare minimum of conduct and benefits provided by employers. While there is no federal law that requires employers to provide time off for voting — and the state law’s coverage is spotty — you’d be well-advised to check out your employment manual or contract. Many employers are kind enough to provide time off, though it might be unpaid. If not, you might just ask to take a slightly extended lunch break in order to vote during your legally-required time off.

However, if your employer is not a kind and generous soul, there’s always the possibility that the state laws will apply to you. According to the state’s election code, here are the things to know about time off for voting:

  • You must be entitled to vote (and registered, obviously);
  • You must be scheduled to work on Election Day for a shift that starts and ends less than two hours from poll opening and closing times. (This is the killer. Polls should be open from 6am to 7pm. Unless you’re working a 12-hour shift that falls between those hours, you aren’t covered.)
  • You must provide a written request, along with a copy of your voter registration card, to your employer prior to the day of the election;
  • Your boss can set the time of your voting break, which is limited to two hours;
  • Your “compensation” cannot be reduced, meaning the break should be paid as well.
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