Federal employees who want to take off a few hours from work to vote in November will be permitted to do so only in a limited number of circumstances. A memo from Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry to chief human capital officers advises agencies on the government’s long-standing policies governing excused absences for voting. Berry told agencies that such absences “should rarely be needed” since most polling places now are open for extended periods of time, with some offering early voting options. Excused absences for voting can be granted in cases where an employee must vote early, has an extended commuting time, or attends a polling place that is not open at least three hours either before or after regular working hours. The policy applies to federal, state, county and municipal elections.
An agency may grant “a limited amount of excused absence” to permit an employee to report to work three hours after the polls open or leave from work three hours before they close if that employee’s polling place is not open in a three-hour window either before or after their regular work hours. The employee must choose whether to leave early or arrive late based on whichever requires the lesser amount of time away from work. This means if an employee regularly works from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the polling place is open from 7 a.m. to 7p.m., the employee could be granted half an hour of excused absence from 4 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. if he or she requests. But if that polling place were open until 8 p.m., then the employee would not be eligible for excused absence, since that would allow at least three hours after the end of the workday to vote.