Get Out and Vote, Small Business Owners Tell Employees

Reports of long lines for early voting persuaded Darlene Hollywood -- she's giving her 13 employees at Hollywood Public Relations the morning of Election Day off.

"I don't want people to feel they have to make a choice of, 'I need to get to the office' or 'I can participate in my civic duty,'" says Hollywood, whose firm is based in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Small business owners who want to make it easy for their staffers to vote are giving them flex time, balloting breaks, or, like Hollywood, opening late. Some, joining a list of companies of all sizes that includes giants like General Motors and Ford, will be closed for the whole day. Owners say they want to encourage everyone to vote -- some saying the intense emotions in the presidential race this year make it particularly significant and others that they feel it's important to be involved in what happens in their country, state and city.

Many states have laws requiring employers to give workers time off to vote, and some of those states require that employees be paid if they have to vote during working hours. There is no federal law granting workers the right to voting time off. But many owners aren't motivated strictly by the law.

On past Election Days, Brenda Jones Barwick saw employees hurrying to get their work done at the end of the day and hoping they'd still have time to vote.

"People were rushing out of here at 6:30 trying to get in line before the polls closed at 7," says Barwick, owner of Jones Public Relations in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This year, she's decided that neither her 20 staffers nor the company itself needs a chaotic day. So she won't open the office until 10 a.m. on Election Day. Jones plans to email clients to...

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