U.S. Employers Are Giving More Workers Paid Time Off to Vote

More U.S. employers recognize how important voting is and are making it less onerous — and costly — for workers to get to the polls.

More than 80 million Americans already have cast ballots during early voting ahead of the Nov. 3 election, and many people have to wait for hours in line to vote. A Bloomberg roundup showed that some companies in banking, tech, autos and retail are providing anything from one hour to a whole day off on Election Day. Others said they encourage employees to vote but don’t have specific policies. That can mean workers have to vote on their own time or not vote at all.

Some companies have been planning ahead for months.

Francine Katsoudas, Cisco Systems’s chief people officer, started receiving employee queries last spring about paid time off to vote. In July, the company said its 77,000 employees worldwide would have national election days off. Uber adopted the same policy earlier this year.

Cisco is one of 60 companies that joined Just Vote, an initiative that encourages employers to commit to giving at least two paid hours off, while also helping workers understand the voting process. Procter & Gamble, which also joined the initiative, is giving workers the day off and telling them where and how to cast ballots. 

“We know one reason people don’t vote is they don’t know how,” said Simon Moss, co-founder of Global Citizen, the organization that sponsors Just Vote. “Particularly this year, with so many states changing their rules.” 

Another initiative, Time To Vote, has even more signatories. Among them is Molson Coors: The brewer said it will try to halt production and give its 7,000 U.S. employees Nov. 3 as a paid holiday. 

“Every week we receive hundreds of requests from companies interested in joining” Time To Vote, said Corley Kenna, director of global communications for Patagonia, which started the initiative in 2016. The apparel maker, in addition to giving workers the day off to vote, this year is offering employees four extra days off so they can serve as poll workers.

Of course, some workers won’t have to worry about missing work; Election Day is a paid holiday for state employees in 13 states. Several states require private businesses to give an unspecified amount of time off to vote. In the remaining states, public- and private-sector workers may have no choice other than to use vacation time or skip work if their employers don’t provide time off. A Pew Research Center survey showed that 14% of registered voters who didn’t participate in the 2016 elections said they were too busy or had a scheduling conflict.

Some of the biggest U.S. corporations have formal policies to give workers time to vote without docking their pay. JPMorgan employees will have up to four paid hours to vote, while Bank of America and Wells Fargo — which along with JPMorgan signed the Time To Vote initiative — will offer three hours. Goldman Sachs will give a half day. 

Many big tech companies also are offering employees time off to vote. Twitter and Salesforce will give the full day, while Apple will grant workers four hours off. Microsoft’s salaried employees have flexibility to take time out to vote, and hourly workers get as much as four paid hours. Lyft, meanwhile, is offering the public — and its employees — free or discounted rides to polling stations. Palantir is encouraging employees to take whatever time they need to register, volunteer as poll workers or vote. All have signed public pledges to give time off to vote. 

Other companies think shorter periods of time suffice. Synchrony Financial is granting workers one hour of paid time to vote. Marriott said it has been giving corporate employees time off to volunteer as poll workers for many years, but has no formal policy on voting, though managers have flexibility in giving workers time to vote. Hilton takes the same approach.

Some companies have long records of accommodating workers who want to vote. Qualcomm said it has always given workers as much paid time off as needed to vote. Toyota said its policy of giving two hours of paid time off for U.S. employees is at least five years old. General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler hourly and salaried workers have had Election Day off for a number of years.

Nissan and Honda, on the other hand, both said they have no special policy on time off for voting. 

Walmart said it has expanded its long-standing policy on voting by helping employees to register and providing them with information on federal, state and local candidates. The retailer also gives employees three hours of paid time to vote, but says it has asked managers to be flexible because of long lines at polling stations.

The question Walmart and other companies can’t answer yet is whether what they’ve done will be enough amid potentially record voter turnout, fewer polling stations in some areas and the challenges posed by the coronavirus.

 “We certainly hope so,” said spokesman Randy Hargrove.  

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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