You can schedule employees around vacations, but unexpected employee absenteeism can wreak havoc on small businesses. Employees can miss work for various reasons, including illness. However, jury duty is a unique concern for employers who must balance staffing needs with this government-imposed obligation.
We’ll explore how jury duty works, the employment laws surrounding it, and how employers should handle jury duty issues when they arise in the workplace.
How does jury duty work?
All Americans are obligated to serve jury duty. In fact, jury duty is often considered a person’s civic duty. Without juries composed of impartial and randomly chosen citizens, defendants in court cases can’t receive the speedy and fair trials outlined in the Sixth Amendment. Given this obligation, an employee’s jury duty summons supersedes their work for you.
Keep the following in mind when considering how jury duty affects your employees.
- Avoiding jury duty can have legal consequences. If an employee receives a jury duty summons, they must appear at the designated courthouse on the specified date at the specified time. If your employee ignores their jury duty summons, they could be held in contempt of court and charged. As much of a hiccup as the employee’s absence may prove for your company, employee attendance should never come at the cost of legal troubles.
- Employees can sometimes postpone jury duty. Sometimes employees can legally get out of jury duty. All jurors have the right to request at least one postponement, though requests may be denied. Additionally, subsequent requests after an initial request are usually forbidden.
- Employees may be entirely exempt from jury duty (rare). Occasionally, certain summoned citizens can request exemption from serving on juries. These jurors must have medical, financial, caregiving or student obligations that preclude them from serving.
Some municipalities operate phone lines citizens can call the night before jury duty to learn whether they must report for service the next day. If they aren’t required to report in person, their jury duty summons is considered officially fulfilled.
Do you have to pay your employees for jury duty?
Whether you must pay your employees for jury duty depends on where your company is located. To help you determine your obligations, we’ve outlined federal and state laws as follows.
Federal jury duty laws
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) law, employers are not legally required to pay employees for nonwork hours. Since employees are theoretically not working while on jury duty, federal law does not mandate that you pay your employees for jury duty.
However, jury duty waiting rooms equipped with Wi-Fi are becoming increasingly common, though Wi-Fi is only available in the early stages of jury duty. If your employees are under a remote work plan during the early stage of jury duty (i.e., preselection), you must pay them for their work.
State jury duty laws
State laws governing jury duty pay supersede the FLSA. Most states don’t require employers to pay employees for jury duty, but eight states mandate jury duty pay. These states include the following:
- Alabama: Companies based in Alabama must pay their full-time employees their usual wages for all hours they’d normally work during their jury duty.
- Colorado: Colorado businesses must pay employees their regular wages up to $50 per day for their first three days on jury duty. You can increase this $50 cap if you desire.
- Connecticut: Connecticut companies must pay full-time employees their total wages for their first five days of jury duty unless the Chief Court Administrator excuses the employer from this requirement.
- Louisiana: Louisiana companies must pay “regular” employees full wages for their first day of jury duty.
- Massachusetts: In Massachusetts, full-time, part-time, temporary, and “casual” employees must receive full wages for their first three days of jury duty.
- Nebraska: All Nebraska employees must receive full wages for jury duty, minus any money the courts pay citizens for their service.
- New York: In New York, employers with over 10 employees must pay $40 in wages per day during an employee’s first three days on jury duty.
- Tennessee: In Tennessee, jury duty pay is required for nontemporary employees you’ve employed for over six months. Qualified employees must receive their full wages, less any money the courts pay for service. However, employers with four or fewer employees are exempt from Tennessee’s jury duty pay laws.
Although 41 states have no jury duty pay laws, many employers offer jury duty pay as a flexible benefit. In fact, 68 percent of U.S. employees get jury duty pay when they serve. And perhaps most importantly, even if you’re not required to pay employees for jury duty, you still must grant employees as much time off as they need to fulfill their jury duty obligations. You cannot threaten, fire or penalize employees for their service.
Offering paid leave for an employee’s jury duty obligations can generate goodwill, help maintain morale and boost retention.
Tips for setting up a system for jury duty absences
Employee jury duty can significantly impact a business. However, implementing a jury duty absence system can make this burden easier. Follow the below steps to implement your system:
- Know your state jury duty laws. In addition to the laws listed above, states may have additional laws about how much work you can or can’t make your employees perform outside jury duty hours. Ask a lawyer for more information.
- Reassure employees that you won’t penalize them for their service. Employees worried about their jobs may neglect to tell you about their summons early enough for you to adequately plan for their absence. By guaranteeing your employees that jury duty won’t come at the cost of their job, you can circumvent this problem.
- Set deadlines for jury duty notification. In your employee handbook, specify how far in advance employees must inform you that they’ve received a summons. You should also outline your plans for jury duty pay and covering absent employees’ responsibilities.
- Create your plan as soon as possible. Despite the stresses jury duty can cause a small business, your employees won’t be summoned often. While it may not seem urgent, take time to create a plan so you’re not caught off-guard when a key employee is summoned for jury duty during a critical week.
- Use time and attendance software. The best time and attendance software can make it easy to track employees’ jury duty-related absences. You’ll be able to plan around the missing employee and integrate any compensation changes into your payroll system.
- Make plans for your own jury duty absence. Business owners and other leadership team members can also be called for jury duty. Making a plan for your absence is crucial to ensure operations run smoothly and that nothing gets overlooked.
All employers nationwide are required to let workers return to their jobs when they return from jury duty and to continue paying employee benefits while they serve.
Jury duty FAQs
Can you deny a request for an employee to report for jury duty?
No. You can’t deny a request for an employee to serve on a jury. Since a jury duty summons is legally binding, you and your company have no authority to nullify or alter the summons.
However, as mentioned earlier, anyone summoned for jury duty can request a postponement or exemption, though neither outcome is guaranteed. If these requests are declined, you must give the employee time off to fulfill their service.
Can you require an employee to use paid days off such as vacation leave, sick leave, personal days or paid time off for the days they miss for jury duty?
Whether you can require employees to use PTO, personal days or sick leave for jury duty depends on your state. Fifteen states expressly prohibit this practice: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont and Virginia. If you are based in another state, you are permitted to reduce employees’ allocated paid time off for days served on jury duty.
How does a person get picked for jury duty?
Voters are randomly selected from the voter registration lists every two to four years. Those who were selected within that period but were excused return to the pool and may be selected again.
How long does the average jury duty take?
Most juries are selected the same day citizens are required to report. If not selected by the end of the day, those people can leave, and their obligation is fulfilled. If a person is selected to be a juror, the average jury duty is three to five days. However, some trials are much longer. The judge may inform jurors of the approximate time they must serve.
What should be in my company’s jury duty policy?
Businesses should have a written jury duty policy along with their attendance policy so employees and managers know how to handle jury duty situations. Ideally, your policy should specify the following:
- How much paid time off you provide (if any)
- How jury pay factors into how PTO is calculated
- Who employees must inform about their jury duty absence
- When they’re required to notify the company about jury duty absences
- Any paperwork required to verify jury duty
- When they are required to return to work once jury duty is over
- Which employees (exempt or nonexempt) this policy applies to
Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article.