Government

Iowa one of many states that allows paid time off to vote

Employees may be eligible, but they must request time off before Election Day

“I voted” buttons lay in a bowl on the voting machine in Coralville, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/Gazette)
“I voted” buttons lay in a bowl on the voting machine in Coralville, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/Gazette)

Iowans wondering if they can find time in their workday to vote on Tuesday are in luck: Iowa is one of many states that allows for paid time off to vote.

State law requires employers to give workers up to three hours of paid time off to vote on Election Day if work hours interfere with poll hours and as long as the employee asks for the time off before Election Day. That means Monday is the last day for employees to request the time off to vote.

While there is no federal law that mandates employers provide their employees time off to cast their ballots, 30 states have laws that allow employees time off to vote on Election Day, and Iowa is one of the more generous states, providing three hours of paid leave. Neighboring states Wisconsin and Illinois allow for time off, but it’s unpaid.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s website, employers are only required to allow time off to vote if the employee doesn’t have at least three consecutive hours available before or after work to go to the polls, which are open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. So workers with 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedules aren’t eligible for the paid time off, since there’s a four-hour window between 5 and 9 p.m. to vote. But an employee who works 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. would be entitled to paid time off, since there’s no three-hour window before or after work to vote.

Employees must request the time off to vote before Election Day, and employers can designate the time employees are allowed to take off, according to state law.

National media outlets and human resources experts report a spike in businesses giving workers paid time off to vote Nov. 6. A record 44 percent of American organizations are doing so this year, up 37 percent, according to Bloomberg News, citing reports form the Society for Human Resources Management.

Major employers in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor are following state law with regard to providing paid time off for employees wanting to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

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“We have had satellite voting on campus,” said Pam Tvrdy-Cleary. Rockwell Collins spokeswoman, adding, “We will leave it up to the discretion of managers” for those desiring time off on Tuesday.

UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids will follow state law, spokeswoman Sarah Corizzo said.

“We will have employees work with their managers to accommodate each individual on a case-by-case basis,” Corizzo said.

Alliant Energy will send a reminder to employees ahead of Election Day.

“We will be sending out a note to employees on Monday asking them to please vote if they have not already done so and have a discussion with their supervisor as soon as possible if they think their work schedule will make voting difficult,’” said spokesman Justin Foss. “We are trying to encourage flexibility with our employees.”

Iowa’s universities — per state law — also have policies supporting worker rights to cast a ballot.

“Any person entitled to vote in a public election is entitled to time off from work with pay on any public Election Day for a period not to exceed three hours in length,” according to UI policy. Affected employees have to apply to their supervisors for the time off.

Early voting continues Monday at county auditor offices. Voters can find their Election Day polling places on the Secretary of State’s website, sos.iowa.gov/pollingplace.

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