- Handling jury duty legally is a crucial aspect of managing employees.
- There are no federal laws on jury pay, but some states require you to pay employees while they serve on a jury.
- Understanding jury duty laws helps you develop a policy that works for team members and your organization.
- This article is for small business owners and organizational leaders who want to learn how to manage jury duty and understand their legal obligations.
When an employee is summoned for jury duty, what is legally required of their employer? Jury duty laws differ between states, so business owners must understand their employees’ rights and rules about compensation and time off for jury duty in their area.
Here’s what you need to know about managing jury duty and creating a policy for paying employees for the time they serve as they fulfill their civic obligations.
Do you have to pay employees while they’re on jury duty?
While you’re legally obligated to release your employees for jury duty, whether you pay them during their service depends on several factors.
The most progressive employers freely release their employees for jury duty graciously (as obligated) and pay their total wages during this time. However, federal and state laws govern jury duty pay obligations, so it’s essential to understand your legal requirements.
What are the federal laws on jury duty pay?
Federal law does not require employers to provide employees paid leave for jury duty service. It also doesn’t provide guidance for specified leave periods or compensation for jury duty. However, it prohibits employers from terminating employees because of jury duty.
What are state laws on jury duty pay?
Each state has its own jury duty service laws, so it’s essential to understand the laws governing your area. However, like federal law, state laws prohibit employers from terminating employees because they have jury duty.
Additionally, many states and municipalities explicitly prohibit employers from docking pay, vacation time or paid time off (PTO) when an employee serves jury duty.
The Employment Law Handbook breaks down the current state requirements on compensation for employees serving on jury duty. Presently, the following eight U.S. states and Washington, D.C., require employers to pay employees, either in part or in full, for jury duty:
Additionally, the following 15 states prevent employers from creating policies that require employees to use their paid leave (vacation, sick leave, personal or PTO) for a jury duty summons:
- New Mexico
Create your jury duty payment policy
After noting your state requirements for jury duty pay, create your jury duty payment policy. Even if your state doesn’t require jury duty employee payments, consider providing some form of compensation or reimbursement for employees on jury duty.
Remember that your employees don’t have a choice about fulfilling this civic obligation, and they may experience financial hardship if they lose their regular pay. Consult your budget and determine if you can compensate your team when they’re serving on a jury. Jury duty-friendly payment policies may also help improve employee retention because employees feel supported and secure.
Digital time and attendance systems can track employees’ hours, help you manage paid time off and ensure you meet legal obligations. Read our reviews of the best time and attendance software to find the best solution for your business.
How should employers respond to employee jury duty?
All employers will eventually have to deal with an employee’s jury duty. Ideally, your company culture will have already normalized jury duty as an important civic duty. When an employee tells you about their summons, communicate your support. You’ll also need to make a plan for handling the employee’s job duties while they’re out.
- Normalize jury duty. You can normalize jury duty in your company culture even before any employees receive a summons. Add your jury duty payment policy to your employee handbook so there are no surprises, and set clear employee expectations about checking in about their service. Normalizing jury duty as a civic obligation is an excellent way to empower employees and boost employee engagement.
- Communicate your support. When an employee tells you about their jury duty summons, let them know they can respond and their job will be waiting for them upon their return. It’s essential that they feel comfortable notifying you and taking leave from their job without fear of retaliation or unwanted attention when they return.
- Make a plan to handle the employee’s duties. Asking other employees to work extra hours to cover for colleagues on jury duty may not always be well received. Instead, consider spreading out essential duties and temporarily suspending nonessential functions until your team is back in place. Additionally, consider using a staffing agency to provide temporary employees to help cover for employees on leave.
Did you know? A smart time-off policy makes allowances for jury duty, bereavement leave, sick leave, military leave, parental leave and more.
Frequently asked questions about employee jury duty
What is jury duty?
Jury duty is a legal process by which citizens serve as jurors during various court cases. The federal or state government summons citizens to appear as part of the selection process and determines who will serve on a jury for a specific court case.
If one of your employees is summoned, you must give them a smooth release from work to attend to their civic obligations.
How do employers get notified when an employee is summoned?
Employers are never contacted through the legal system. When the employee receives the summons to appear in court for the jury selection process, they must notify their employer.
How long does jury duty last?
The jury selection process generally takes about a day or two. If your employee is not selected to serve, they can return to the workplace. But if your employee is selected for a jury, the time they will serve is unpredictable because the trial may last anywhere from one day to several months. When possible, the courts will inform the employee if the trial is expected to take a long time.
Generally, once an employee is called up and serves on a jury, they are not called again for at least one year.
Who is eligible for jury duty?
Most of your employees are likely eligible to serve on a jury. Here are the general criteria the courts use to determine eligibility:
- They must be a U.S. citizen.
- They must be over the age of 18.
- They must understand and speak English well enough to discuss the trial with fellow jurors and enter a verdict.
- If ever convicted of a felony, they must have had their rights restored to vote and serve on juries.
- They must be under 70 years of age.
- They must live within the jurisdiction of the court issuing the summons.
Can employers confirm an employee’s jury duty summons?
Yes. As an employer, you can require employees to provide proof of jury duty. If the employee presents the court summons to you, that should be enough. You can make a copy of it for the employee’s file, but the original should remain with the employee for their records. Be aware that jury summons can look different from one court authority to the next.
As an employer, you have the right to confirm that an employee received a summons and is actually serving.
Can employees refuse jury duty?
Yes. However, they must have a good reason, and the court must approve it. As an employer, you can’t – under any circumstances – place an additional burden on or threaten the employee to keep them from participating in jury duty. The court is generally reasonable and understands that sometimes people can’t perform jury duty. However, employers cannot press employees to reject a jury duty summons.
Sometimes, people can reschedule or ask for a jury duty exemption. State and federal district courts have their own policies; they may accept or deny excuse requests depending on those policies.
Here are examples of times when employees may ask for a jury duty exemption:
- They have a serious health issue, such as a mental or physical impairment.
- They are currently on active military duty.
- They are a student, teacher or professor.
- They are a caregiver and can’t find arrangements for those under their care.
- They would suffer undue financial hardship as a result of serving.
- They have scheduled and paid for a vacation.
- They are unable to reschedule certain personal commitments.
- They lack reliable transportation.
- They have served as a juror within the last 12 months.
There are a few situations where an employee may be excused from jury duty because of the hardship it would cause their employer; for example, if the employer can’t proceed with business or services if the employee steps away in the required time frame, such as during a seasonal spike in business.
Also, employees within the public service industry are usually excused from jury duty. These include police officers, some attorneys, doctors and certain government officials. They may be excused either because of their extensive industry knowledge and experience or because they are deemed essential in their roles.
However, no matter the circumstances, employers can’t pressure an employee to reject a jury duty summons.
Managing jury duty leave has legal and cultural implications
Understanding your legal obligations around employee jury duty leave is part of being an employer. While some states require you to pay your employees for the time they serve on a jury, others don’t. Be sure to check your state’s specific legal requirements. However, even if your state does not legally require you to pay your employees while on jury duty leave, you may still choose to do so as part of your employee benefits package.
Paying your employees while they serve on a jury – regardless of whether you’re legally obligated – can help empower them to fulfill their civic obligation. At the very least, you should assure your employees that their job will be waiting for them when they return, and they should not fear retaliation.
Aside from your legal obligations as an employer, ensuring your employees are treated fairly when called for jury duty fosters a positive and empowering workplace culture.
Jocelyn Pollock contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.