This memorandum provides agencies with information on the Federal Government’s longstanding policy of granting employees limited time off from work (i.e., excused absence) to vote in Federal, State, county, or municipal elections, or in referendums on any civic matter in their community. The head of each agency (or his or her designee) has discretion to grant excused absence in limited circumstances under his or her broad authority to govern, unless otherwise prohibited by law. Agencies have discretionary authority to grant excused absence to the extent that such time off does not interfere with agency operations, including the ability to adjust policies to circumstances as they unfold. Typically, polling places throughout the United States are open for extended periods of time, and an increasing number of jurisdictions are offering early voting options. Therefore, excused absence should rarely be needed.Agencies should consider the following guidelines when creating their policies on excused absence for voting in the upcoming election.
Granting Excused Absence for Voting
Generally, OPM has advised agencies that where the polls are not open at least 3 hours either before or after an employee’s regular work hours, an agency may grant a limited amount of excused absence to permit the employee to report for work 3 hours after the polls open or leave from work 3 hours before the polls close, whichever requires the lesser amount of time off. An employee’s “regular work hours” should be determined by reference to the time of day the employee normally arrives at and departs from work.
For example, if an employee is scheduled to work from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the employee’s polling place is open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., the employee should not be granted excused absence for voting, since the employee would still have at least 3 hours after the end of his or her workday to vote. However, if an employee is scheduled to work from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the employee’s polling place is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., the employee may be granted ½ hour of excused absence from 4:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., if requested.
Extended Commuting Distance
If an employee’s voting place is beyond normal commuting distance and vote by absentee ballot is not permitted, the agency may grant excused absence (not to exceed 1 day) to allow the employee to make the trip to the voting place to cast a ballot. If more than 1 day is needed, the employee may request annual leave or leave without pay for the additional period of absence.
An increasing number of jurisdictions offer a period prior to the day of the election during which voters may cast ballots early. Some employees, such as those on alternative work schedules, may find it convenient to vote during these early voting periods. Agencies should grant excused absence for early voting only when (1) the employee will be unable to vote on the day of the election because of activities directly related to the agency’s mission (such as travel) and cannot vote by absentee ballot, or (2) early voting hours are the same as, or exceed, voting hours on the day of the election, in which case the information provided under “Granting Excused Absence for Voting” applies.
If an employee chooses to vote earlier, but the hours in which polling places are open are shorter than on election day, the employee is not eligible for excused absence because the employee has opted to vote at that time. Also, an agency should not grant excused absence if an employee’s non-workday on his or her compressed or other alternative work schedule falls on a day that his or her polling place is open for voting.
For general information on Federal pay, leave, and work scheduling policies, please visit www.opm.gov/oca/index.asp. Since policies may differ from agency to agency, employees should contact their agency human resources office for information on their agency’s policy on excused absence for voting and agency field offices should contact their appropriate headquarters-level agency human resources office. Agency headquarters-level may contact Pay and Leave at OPM at firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests from individual employees will be returned or forwarded to the appropriate agency human resources office.
cc: Chief Human Capital Officers
Human Resources Directors