Find out what you're legally required to do – and pay – to support your employees when they're summoned for jury duty.
- Ensuring that jury duty is managed legally is an important 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 the laws surrounding jury duty helps you develop a policy that works for team members as well as your organization.
- This article is for small business owners and organizational leaders who want to learn how to manage jury duty and what the legal parameters are for employers.
When an employee is summoned for jury duty, what is legally required of you as their employer? Laws pertaining to jury duty differ between states, so employers must be aware of their employees' rights and how compensation and time off for jury duty works within their state. Here's what you need to know about managing jury duty and creating a policy for paying employees for the time they serve fulfilling their civic obligations.
Understanding what jury duty is
Jury duty is a legal process by which citizens serve as jurors during various types of 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, it is your duty as the employer to give your employee a smooth release from work to attend to their civic obligations. Here are some of the details concerning jury duty for your employees that you need to understand.
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 have to notify their employer.
How long does jury duty last?
The jury selection process generally takes about a day or two, and 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 let the employee know 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?
Typically, most of your employees will be eligible to serve on a jury. Here are the general criteria the courts use to determine eligibility:
- U.S. citizen
- Over the age of 18
- Understand and speak English well enough to discuss the trial with fellow jurors and enter a verdict
- If ever convicted of a felony, must have had their rights restored to vote and serve on juries
- Under 70 years of age
- Living within the jurisdiction of the court issuing the summons
Key takeaway: Serving on a jury is a civic responsibility, and if an employee is summoned for jury duty, you must allow them to serve. The time a juror will be required to serve may not be predictable; it could be one day or several months.
Understanding federal and state laws and employee pay for jury duty
As an employer, you have the right to confirm that an employee received a summons and is actually serving. However, whether or not you pay the employee while they're on jury duty is not always up to you.
In general, the most progressive employers not only release their employees for jury duty (as they are legally obligated to do), but they pay their employees' full wages during this time. Some states govern jury duty and employee pay differently from others, so read up on your state's laws before you develop a policy.
Federal laws on jury duty pay
Federal law does not require the employer to provide employees paid leave for jury duty service, nor does it provide guidance for a specified period of leave or compensation for jury duty. However, it prohibits employers from terminating employment because of jury duty.
State laws on jury duty pay
Each state has its own jury duty service laws, but like federal law, state laws prohibit employers from terminating an employee just 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 is serving jury duty, according to Paycor.
The Employment Law Handbook breaks down the current state requirements on compensation for employees who are serving on jury duty. Presently, the following eight U.S. states as well as Washington, D.C., require employers to pay employees, either in part or in full, who serve on jury duty:
- New York
Additionally, the following 15 states prevent employers from creating policies that require employees to use their paid leave (vacation, sick, personal or PTO) for a jury duty summons:
- New Mexico
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 is to remain with the employee for their records. Be aware that jury summons can look different from one court authority to the next.
Can employees refuse jury duty?
Yes, but there needs to be a good reason for the employee to refuse jury duty, and the court must approve it. As an employer, you cannot, under any circumstances, place 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 serve jury duty, but employers cannot press employees to reject a calling for jury duty.
In some cases, people are allowed to reschedule or – rarely – may be exempted from jury duty, but be aware that state and federal district courts have their own policies and, depending on those policies, requests may be denied. 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 cannot 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 instance, if the employer cannot 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, again, in none of these examples may the employer press the employee to reject a jury duty summons.
Key takeaway: Although federal law does not require employers to pay employees during jury duty leave, many states require employers to pay employees in part or in full during their jury duty leave. Employers may verify that their employee has been called for jury duty.
Preparing for employees to serve on jury duty
All employers will eventually have to work around an employee's jury duty. The smaller or more spread-out your team is, the more challenging it can be to cover for employees on jury duty leave. The best way to tackle this issue is to develop a plan for your team before it arises.
Simply asking employees to work extra hours to cover for their colleague on jury duty is not always a good policy. Some employers have a temp service on call to help cover for employees on leave.
Team communication and normalizing jury duty service
The first two messages you should convey to your employees on this matter is that they can respond to their jury summons and their job will be waiting for them upon their return. It is important that employees feel comfortable notifying you and taking leave from their jobs without fear of retaliation or unwanted attention when they return.
When creating and "living" your company culture, it is helpful to understand how jury duty works. Normalizing jury duty as a civic obligation that all employees have, and that the company openly supports, is a great way to empower and engage employees to accept their jury duty obligations.
Key takeaway: Employers should normalize jury duty leave within their company cultures, empowering employees to fulfill their civic duties.