The Law @ Work

Are Employers Required to Give Time Off for Voting?

By Amelia J. Holstrom

Tomorrow, November 3, is Election Day.  With record voter turnout expected nationwide, employers in Massachusetts might be wondering whether employees are entitled to time off for voting. The answer might be yes.

Massachusetts law provides that employees of “manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile establishments” be entitled to up to two hours off to vote after the polls open. You might be thinking that this statute does not apply to you because you are not one of these three establishments, but you should think again. 

Under the statute, a “mechanical establishment” is defined as “ any premises, other than a factory as [defined by statute], where machinery is employed in connection with any work or process carried on therein.” At least one court in Massachusetts has interpreted the word machinery to include computers used by employees in connection with work. As a result, under this interpretation, it is possible that employees who use a company-provided computer are entitled to time off to vote in the election.

 The time off  to vote may be unpaid and the employee must request it in advance.

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