Should Employers Give Employees Time Off to Vote?
Untitled design (3).png

Voting is a civic duty, and a privilege. It’s something that all of us should have an opportunity to do, and I believe employers build trust, engagement and loyalty among their employees when they provide opportunities for their team members to get to the ballot box. That includes providing time off work, if needed, for everyone to ensure they can get to their designated polling place within the hours it is open.

Some states require that employers give time off to vote. In this list, compiled by the organization Workplace Fairness, all of the requirements are laid out so you can check out what requirements apply to employees in the states where your organization does business. The rules do vary by state regarding when an employee is required to be given time off, when it must be paid, and what the penalties are for non-compliance. For instance, in Colorado, if an employee has three non-work hours to vote while the polls are open, no time off is required.

While following the law is not optional, are employers obligated to make their employees aware of their rights? Many employment laws also require posting to raise awareness, but the time off laws do not seem to mandate this. But should employers make employees aware, or even exceed what the law compels them to do when making it easier for their team members to vote?

Nancy Lyons, of Clockwork, not only decided to give her employees time off to vote, but made the bold decision to close the entire office on election day. In her announcement, Nancy explained that it was a strong statement of the company’s values, in an age where our personal, political and work lives are increasingly intertwined. Nancy shared, “I see this simple act of closing for the day as us demonstrating our values, not just here at work, but in our neighborhoods and greater communities.”

It isn’t always practical to close an entire work location. But in the spirit of encouraging this critically important civic duty celebrating our democracy and valuing our freedom, why not show your employees you value them as well by giving them the opportunity to make their voices heard?

The Sandwich Moment

Have you ever been moved almost to tears by a small gesture that someone who cares about you has done for you? That’s what my sister and I call a “sandwich moment.” The name refers to the time eight years ago when my sister was in the throes of mom-hood and trying to juggle a hundred things every minute, and her sweet husband sent her with me to spend a Mothers’ Day weekend away in the mountains. For the drive up there, I packed us ham sandwiches. They even had lettuce and cucumbers on them, and they were neatly wrapped in foil.

When she opened the bag and took one out, her eyes filled with tears. She said that she couldn’t remember the last time someone made her a sandwich. We burst out laughing and ever since, whenever we offer small kindnesses to each other, which we often do, we call those “sandwich moments.” It’s one of the things I love most about my sister-that each of us notices when the other could really use a sandwich, and then we quietly make one and offer it up.  

For me it’s totally turned around the phrase, “Give that girl a sandwich,” which has been a snide way to make fun of the famous and beautiful folks who are never too thin or too rich. When I think of giving someone a sandwich, I think of giving just a little bit of love freely and without strings attached. Yes, food is nourishing, and caring in itself, but the gesture is what means more to me.   

It’s made me think about other people who quietly toil at work, in the world, among my friends and neighbors. Some of them are lonely, some of them are suffering, and some of them feel lost in this big, complicated world. My daughter lives in New York City and she shared that she really only began to feel at home when she realized that small gestures connect her with the millions of other people who live there. Holding a door, sharing a chuckle, helping someone when they drop something-these are little bits of loving kindness that we give and keep a tiny corner for ourselves, connecting us with other human beings that share our world.

The same feeling arises from giving to people far away too. Finding causes we care about and supporting them can create sandwich moments too. And in the place where we spend a lot of our time, at our jobs, if we can share these moments of kindness, we make the workplace a better experience for everyone. Because sandwiches, although they are quickly consumed, give rise to more sandwiches. The memory of that moment lives on and the person who was loved will share love. This is a short ride we’re on, in this world. I find that it’s really just a collection of moments and the more kindness we share, the happier we all are.

So share a sandwich moment today and spread a little ripple of love.  

Photo on

Our Paths Diverge

It’s one thing to do what you must do in order to make a living and have financial security. It’s very rare that every one of us agrees with every decision and initiative that our employers undertake, for instance. 99% of us must rely on our wages for security and survival, so these are tough issues we must grapple with every day in order to put a roof over our heads and those of our family members, make sure there is food on the table, and keep life moving in a safe and secure way. If we’re lucky, we may even have a little bit left over to save for retirement, go on a family vacation, or help our kids pay for college.

When an organization we voluntarily affiliate with makes decisions we don’t agree with, it’s a different analysis. I have volunteered hundreds of hours and used my personal resources and time to further the brand, initiatives and work of SHRM in the past two years. I have felt a strong sense of commitment and purpose, and gained not only many great insights and met amazing people, but also experienced a sense of reward for giving back and participating fully with a group that shared my values and was aligned with what I wanted our profession to accomplish.

While I respect and care for many of the great volunteers and employees of SHRM that I have worked with over the past couple of years, I firmly reject the current direction of SHRM. I don’t accept their actions in affiliating with the current administration as appropriate or aligned with the values and integrity that HR must maintain in order to be credible and successful. I first made my very clear opinion known to SHRM in March of 2018. The policy, operational partnership and branding direction has continued to further diverge (at an accelerated rate) from my personal values and those of my company.

I haven’t totally abandoned SHRM. But I certainly don’t intend my time, money and advocacy efforts to be utilized toward activities inconsistent with my values. So, for the time being, I will be in Colorado, continuing to engage in volunteer activities that support my local chapter and other local and national groups. This year, my commitment is strong to use my time, resources and expertise toward advancing justice and respect for all people.

So, for now, our paths diverge. Even though we won’t be walking together, SHRM, I wish you well.


Kelly Marinelli

Photo by Wonderlane on / CC BY

Kelly Marinelli
Opting Out

During the past few months, due to some life events, I’ve been taking stock. It’s a good thing for all of us to do occasionally, to revisit the way we spend our precious time during the short journey we have on this earth. Given how things have been going in our world, I am also carefully reviewing whether I am using my time and gifts wisely, to further justice, good work and to pay forward all of the great energy others have contributed to me and my life.

Twitter, as a platform, has made it possible for me to connect with many amazing professionals in HR, and to discover ideas and thoughts of others I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to encounter. But it also causes me to be exposed to a great deal of ceaseless, directionless and traumatic rhetoric that is not oriented toward solving problems and never seems to arrive at a solution. While I do greatly value conversation and debate, I have found lately that the time and energy spent isn’t justified by the outcome. I did an experiment recently and took time off the platform. The result? Sheer bliss. Ignorant bliss.

I have found that I don’t need to know every nuance of every political issue or professional association beef and the inside stories that derive from being extremely active on the platform. Sometimes it felt like diving through a holding tank at the water treatment plant to find a silver dollar at the bottom. How many times would I keep diving through shit for another coin? Why was I obsessively checking this platform to find that only a small number of my visits were keeping me up to date with the people I truly cared about knowing, and why couldn’t I just keep up with them outside this confusing artificial world?

This situation almost feels like it deserves a funeral. I have met amazing folks on Twitter-these are people I have come to call friends in real life, friends who are more valuable to me than gold. I will never regret the time I chose to spend on the platform and it will always be a treasured memory.

But the time as come in my life to say goodbye. There are some life experiences that change you forever, and I have had one of those this year. It’s a story for another blog, on another day, but I know I will tell it when the time is right.

For now, though, I am sure in my bones that this is it, so I will say “so long, best wishes, and goodbye.” My coffee cup is empty. Goodbye, HR Twitter-it’s been nice being a part of the gang. Be sure to keep in touch at  

Photo on

Kelly Marinelli
Human Suffering is Everywhere-Including at Work. So is Empathy and Caring.

There is a strong trend toward embracing a human workplace, where we treat employees as complex and full people, not just cogs in a machine whose productivity should be consumed as part of a ceaseless march to profitability, or to hit targets and goals. But we all know there is more to the story than that.

Real people go through having children, breakups of relationships, including divorce, health challenges and caring for sick family members. We all meet these challenges head-on, and appreciate our employer’s support as we do that. Meeting our employees where they are in the give and take of life can create lasting relationships and a sense of well-being at work that contributes to productivity, retention and success in the long term.

Here are some examples of what managers can do to meet the complex and holistic needs of their employees, without losing focus on work:

·       If things aren’t going well with a work project, ask what you can do to help. Is it additional training and resources, flexibility in a deadline, or additional support?

·       Don’t ignore it when your team member is clearly struggling. It’s up to your employee to decide how much detail about the situation to reveal, but it’s not helpful to pretend nothing is happening.

·       Isolation during times of stress can lead to more serious problems. Refer your people to the Employee Assistance Plan, or EAP. My favorite lead-in to that conversation is to relate a story about how I or another leader accessed the services in the past and how it helped, sharing that “It’s there to support all of us in times like this.

·       Sometimes it’s not possible to alter a deadline, and there are serious business consequences of failure. In these cases, involve your employee in the decision-making process. For instance: “The critical nature of this project makes this a hard deadline. If we fail, we could lose the account, and our team will be held accountable for that, so I want to make sure we either set you up for success or hand off to another team member if that would be more helpful. What do you think we should do?”  Unilaterally taking away projects, or making assumptions about what your employee can successfully handle, can make things worse. Instead, be clear about what's expected and how you can help. 

·       If your employee discloses that the problem is medical in nature, (remember that depression and anxiety are medical problems that can arise from difficult life circumstances and transitions), be ready with resources like Short Term Disability benefits and FMLA leave as options. Reach out to your HR team for assistance and make sure your team has the opportunity to privately talk with them about what’s needed. Never ask questions about your employee’s medical status, but if he/she voluntarily discloses that, don’t share that information with others aside from HR.

·       Above all, don’t leave your struggling employee out there alone, to stand or fall. Be frank about what’s required for work performance, and let your employee know what supportive resources are available.  

While it’s true that some employees will tend to have ongoing problems, for a variety of individual reasons, the strategy of addressing work performance, support needs and benefits available as a holistic plan will move your employees toward better outcomes and help them feel supported and valued at work. If, ultimately, your employee is unable to perform the job, he/she will nevertheless have been treated fairly, valued as a team member, and given every opportunity to succeed. Managing with a human touch takes vulnerability, commitment and confidence, and not only produces better results, but also is a more rewarding experience for the leader.  

Photo by MilitaryHealth on / CC BY

Kelly Marinelli