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Halt confusion with a jury duty policy

July 9, 2012

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner AdvanceHR

There’s always a chance that an employee will get called for jury duty. When that happens, what is the policy about paying the employee while away from work for this purpose? For guidance on a jury duty policy, continue reading.

Here’s a story that can send chills up the backs of employers:

A woman was selected to serve as a juror during a long trial. She told the judge that jury service would not cause her hardship. Why? Her employer had a policy of paying the salaries of employees who served on juries.

Several weeks into the trial, the employee learned that her employer would pay for no more than 10 days of jury service. The employer had changed its policy and hadn’t bothered to tell employees. She asked the court to be excused. Instead, the judge ordered the employer to pay the juror’s salary for the duration of the trial, a trial that lasted more than six months.

“Why not just fire the employee?” you ask. Wrong. It’s illegal for an employer to “discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee[s]” because of their jury duty obligations.

The employer is required to treat employees on jury duty as they would if the employee were on leave for any other reason. In short, the employer is obligated to continue paying insurance and other benefits. When jurors are back on the job, the employer must return them to their former position without loss of seniority.

So, make jury duty clear to employees. Adopt a “Jury and Witness Duty Leave” policy. Your policy should include these elements:

  • Guarantee the right to jury service. Clearly state that employees won’t be penalized for service on a jury.
  • Define jury leave. Is it leave with or without pay? If leave-with-pay, is it for a specified number of days per year? Make sure employees know that monies received from the court will be subtracted from their checks. Also, define your witness leave policy. (Generally, employees called as witnesses are only allowed leave-without-pay.)
  • Identify jury duty exceptions. State your right to ask the court for a deferment of jury duty in the case of a “business necessity.”
  • Require proof of jury service. This usually involves a court summons.
  • List work conditions. For example: “Jurors released early from duty on workdays will call and ask their supervisors if they should report to work for the rest of the day.”
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