Given a particularly divisive political climate in the United States, many companies are grappling with whether and how to attempt to limit conversations about politics in the workplace. Some companies are also interested in channeling 2020 Election Day energy into supporting voter turnout efforts and providing nonpartisan voter education information and resources. This three-part blog series explains what employers and managers can do and what pitfalls they need to avoid.
We began this series with Part I: Managing Workplace Political Conversations.
Part II: Voting Leave
It comes as a surprise to many employers that a majority of states require that employees be given time off to vote, and in many cases, that time must be paid.
While we encourage employers to go above and beyond the bare minimum in any given year, the pandemic makes added flexibility especially important and helpful this year. Those who plan to vote on November 3 may face numerous challenges, including long lines, extended travel to dropbox locations, and kids who need supervision during the day. Even where it is possible to vote by mail or absentee ballot, experts anticipate that many people will still want to vote in person, so it is important not to assume that everyone can or should vote by mail.
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Employers can do their part to encourage voting participation by removing obstacles at work.
And chances are those actions will pay dividends. A July 2018 Global Strategy Group survey found that 76 percent of people were more likely to work for a company that promoted democracy, 81 percent were more likely to buy that company’s products or services, and 81 percent were more likely to recommend the company to their friends or family.
Ways to Facilitate Voting
The most generous approach to encourage voting is making Election Day a paid holiday. This will maximize employees’ ability to vote without concern over lost income. However, this is not an option for many businesses, so employers may consider some of the following alternatives:
- Make Election Day a no-meetings day. Any meetings that are already scheduled should be rescheduled.
- Make Election Day a meeting-light day. Move meetings to allow the most time for voting and shorten meeting agendas.
- Work with managers to accommodate absences due to voting.
- Provide as much paid time off as an employee reasonably needs to vote (even if it is not required by law).
- Trust employee estimates of how much time is reasonable or sufficient. Anticipate long lines. • Be flexible and plan for last-minute voting leave requests.
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Voter Education and Civic Engagement
Employers can help employees to be well informed of their state voting requirements and procedures and can take steps to promote civic engagement. Suggestions for this extra step include:
- Provide nonpartisan information about voting processes and procedures in the state(s) where the company operates. There are many resources for this online. Choose a credible, nonpartisan source to share.
- Provide links to nonpartisan sites with information on how to volunteer as a poll worker or otherwise be involved with helping ensure a safe and smooth election process.
- Encourage employees to explore early voting options where applicable.
- Provide paid time off (volunteer time off) for voting-related volunteer activities such as being a poll worker.
A few things not to do:
- Attempt to influence the political decisions of employees (e.g., by saying, “Our business won’t survive if candidate X gets elected.” or “If you want to have a job, vote for candidate Y.”) • Provide partisan information to employees.
- Force any employee or group of employees to participate in any political discussion, even if it seems nonpartisan.
- Ask employees how they voted.
- Take adverse actions, threaten, or retaliate against employees for how they vote or for their political beliefs.
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