One of the cornerstones of our legal system is the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers. Beyond the rhetoric is the reality that when your employees are selected to serve on a jury their absence can cause a strain on business operations. As such, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of your employees, when it comes to jury duty.
Penalizing an employee for missing work because of a jury summons may be illegal and is unadvisable. Under the federal Jury Systems Improvement Act an employer can be sued for terminating or otherwise intimidating an employee for this reason. Though the Act only applies to service as a juror in federal court—not at the state or local level—you would be wise to adopt the policy as a best practice across the board.
You should also include a section in your company handbook that outlines staff members’ responsibilities. Employees should be required to notify their supervisors as soon as they receive a jury summons. This gives management ample time to plan for potential absences and minimize disruptions in workflow. It can also protect you from potential claims of unfair termination.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, including jury duty. However, some state laws require employers to compensate workers for time served as a member of a jury. You should consult a trusted human resources professional if you are unclear about your responsibilities.
Employees classified as professional, executive or administrative who are paid a salary and exempt from the wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA generally cannot have their earnings docked for jury service. Regulations do, however, allow employers to offset any payment received by an employee for jury duty against their regular salary.
Lastly, to avoid confusion, you should clarify with your staff that appearances in court as a plaintiff, defendant or any other non-subpoenaed role are not governed by the same rules as jury summons, and will require the use of vacation or unpaid time off.