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What Do I Do if My Employee Is Summoned for Jury Duty?

Christine Batten, PHR
by Christine Batten, PHR on May 28, 2014

jury dutyIt's a common situation: an employee comes to you holding a summons for jury duty. They've been called to fulfill their civic responsibility - however, it's going to interfere with their work schedule. As an employer, what do you do? There are some legal and financial obligations you must follow. There are some federal laws that pertain to jury duty and employment, but the majority of regulation in this area comes from the state.

First - as an employer, there are some best practices you'll want to follow in this situation. You need to learn what you must do under federal law and in your state. Then - you can decide what you'd like to do beyond the requirements. For example, according to federal law, you don't have to pay employees while they're away on jury duty; however many employers choose to either continue to pay regular wages while on jury duty - or pay the difference between their regular pay and what they receive for serving on a jury. Again, this scenario may vary depending on your state.

Once you learn the laws - and decided how you want to handle the situation - you should incorporate that into a clearly defined company policy in your employee handbook. Clearly define what "jury duty" or "civic duty" entails - and make sure you outline what employees are and are not entitled to.

Federal Law

According to federal law, no employer is obligated to pay an employee for time taken off for jury duty or to serve as a witness, though many employers do provide a predefined amount of paid leave for jury service. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits the deduction of wages from the salaries of exempt employees for jury or witness duty for absences of less than one week. An employer cannot make deductions for absences of an exempt employee due to jury duty or serving as a witness if they work any day during a workweek. The employer may offset any amount received by an exempt employee as jury fees or witness fees for a particular week against the salary due for that particular week. The employee need not be paid for any workweek during which he or she performs no work.

The federal Jury System Improvement Act of 1978 prohibits employers from disciplining, discharging, intimidating or taking any adverse action against a permanent employee because of jury service. Employers in violation may be fined up to $1000 and may be liable for back pay, costs and attorney’s fees.

State and County Laws

Again, while all employers must comply with the federal laws regarding jury duty and witness duty, most states have additional laws which address this as well. Also, keep in mind that beyond specific state laws, some counties/municipalities have specific pay provisions for jury duty. Typically those details will be included on the jury summons and will often have an “employer’s copy” that employees will need to provide their employer.

We've provided a handy clickable map that can guide you as to the applicable laws in your state. Assisting you in crafting the best policy and procedure when it comes to jury or witness service is only one of the benefits of working with FrankCrum. Contact us if you have questions or need more information.

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Christine Batten, PHR
Christine Batten, PHR

Christine has over 20 years of HR related experience with a background in labor and employment law.