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Election Day 2024: What HR Needs to Know

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  • Leadership & Strategy

Election Day 2024: What HR Needs to Know

We’re quickly approaching the halfway mark of 2024, which means Election Day will be here before we know it.

And in light of the contentious rematch between current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, keeping politics out of the office might be a tall task this year.

From voting time to workplace discussions, here are three things that HR should keep in mind as we prepare for the upcoming fall election.

Election Day: Time off to vote

For employees voting in person, is your company required to give them paid time off to vote on Election Day? And if so, how much time?

No federal law requires employers to give workers time off to vote. But state voting laws vary widely.

For example, under Alaska law, if employees don’t have enough time outside of work to vote, then employees are entitled to as much paid time off as necessary to enable voting on Election Day. But employers don’t have to provide paid time off to vote if the employee has two consecutive hours in which to vote between:

  • the opening of the polls and the beginning of the employee’s regular shift, or
  • the end of the employee’s regular shift and the closing of the polls.

Under Nevada law, employees are entitled to paid time off to vote on Election Day, and the amount of paid time off depends on the distance between the employee’s place of employment and the polling place. If the polling place is:

  • Within two miles of the place of employment, employees are entitled to one hour of paid time off to vote
  • Between two and 10 miles from the place of employment, employees are entitled to two hours of paid time off to vote, and
  • More than 10 miles from the place of employment, employees are entitled to three hours of paid time off to vote. 

Other states have restrictions that:

  • Require advance notice for the time off
  • Allow employers to decide when the leave is taken, and
  • Require that employees bring employers proof of voting.

The bottom line: Check state and local laws where your company does business.

Political activity in the workplace

As we gear up for another contentious election cycle, it’s important for employers to treat all employees equally, regardless of their political leanings.

Election Day will be here before we know it. Campaigns are ramping up, and you may start seeing political activity in the workplace. If you don’t already have one, it’s a good idea to implement a political activity policy to set clear expectations.

You might be wondering: What about free speech? Can’t employees say whatever they want?

Not necessarily.

Generally speaking, the First Amendment’s right to free speech doesn’t apply in private workplaces.

Even so, private employers shouldn’t implement overly broad workplace rules banning political speech, as the National Labor Relations Act may apply to political discussions at work if the topic relates to terms and conditions of employment.

Avoiding workplace conflict

According to The New Yorker, 2024 is “the biggest election year in history,” as “more than half of humanity” will hold a national vote this year. As a result, many people are talking about — and debating — divisive issues in the U.S. (like abortion rights) and abroad (the Israel-Gaza war).

As Election Day approaches, encourage employees to keep any political talk as non-partisan as possible and avoid hot-button issues. You may also want to provide tips to employees on how to divert if another co-worker tries to engage in an unwanted discussion. And of course, encourage employees to report any concerns about political discussions that are getting out of hand.

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