FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Election Day is Tuesday, and employees are encouraged to exercise their right to vote. Tuesday is also a work day for most people.

As a general rule, when the polls are not open at least three hours before or after an employee's regular hours of work, the employee may be granted an amount of excused leave which will permit the employee to report for work three hours after the polls open or leave work three hours before the polls close, whichever requires the lesser amount of time off.

The federal government grants employees limited time off from work (i.e., excused absence) to vote in federal, state or municipal elections. The authority is discretionary in that time off must not interfere with agency operations. Typically, polling places throughout the state are open for extended periods of time.

Therefore, excused absence should rarely be needed. An employee who works a flexible schedule should adjust that schedule to accommodate polling hours. The employee can be excused only for hours that cannot be accommodated by the work schedule. Typically, no voting leave will be granted to employees whose workday begins three or more hours after the polls opens or ends more than three hours before the polls close.

If excused absence is necessary in the upcoming election, the following guidelines should be followed:

 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.

 If the polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., the appropriate time periods for "voting leave" are 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m.

Here are some examples:

 An employee works a compressed work schedule (nine-hour day) from 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This employee could be granted 30 minutes of "voting leave" (from 3 to 3:30 p.m.), since that would result in the least amount of missed duty time.

 An employee works an 8-hour tour from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The employee is entitled to one hour of "voting leave" (8 to 9 a.m.), since this would result in the least amount of missed duty time.

In order to invoke voting leave, the employee must give the supervisor advance notice of the need for leave and indicate the preference for reporting to work late or leaving early. Supervisors of bargaining unit employees should refer to the applicable bargaining unit agreement before extending voting leave to employees.