Whether you view jury duty as an honorable civic duty or an inconvenience, odds are you’ll find a summons in your mailbox at some point. But sometimes a “speedy trial” isn’t so speedy. If selected as a juror, your obligation could last anywhere from a few days to a few months, which means missing work.
While jury duty can be an unavoidable headache for employers and HR teams, chances are someone in your organization will have to report for jury duty sooner or later. When that happens, you’ll need to know how to handle employee absences and compensation. Here’s your guide to employee jury duty leave and creating a company jury duty policy.
Employee Jury Duty Leave
Under the Jury Selection and Service Act, all employers must give employees time off for jury duty. That said, they’re are not required to pay employees during their absence. The Fair Labor And Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require employers to pay employees for time not worked.
While employees may not be compensated for their time, they are guaranteed job security and benefits during their jury duty service. Employers cannot end a worker’s employment, threaten employees for serving on a jury, or pressure them into using their remaining paid time off days, regardless of the length of their absence. Employers found in violation of these rules face fines and even potential imprisonment, and can be sued by employees for back pay or unlawful termination.
Employees Jury Duty Compensation
Jurors are typically only paid $40 to $60 a day for their time, with the potential for reimbursed travel and meal expenses. To help relieve the financial burden of jury duty, many employers choose to compensate employees for a few days of their service. In fact, 57 percent of employees at private companies had access to paid jury duty leave in 2018. If compensating employees, companies are allowed to require employees to turn over their jury duty wages.
While there is no federal law mandating that businesses pay employees while on jury duty, keep in mind that some states require it, including Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee.
Creating a Company Jury Duty Leave Policy
Communicate your company’s stance on jury duty leave and compensation by creating and sharing a jury duty policy with your employees. The policy, which should be included in your employee handbook, should outline expectations around notifying managers, showing proof of summons, handling early dismissals, and how many absences will be compensated. Be sure to address how the policy applies to exempt and nonexempt employees. See below for a sample policy:
Sample Company Jury Duty Leave Policy
COMPANY will pay employees for up to five days if they’re called to serve on a jury. Notify your manager and the people team as soon as possible after receiving your summons. If selected to serve on a jury, you may be asked to provide evidence of your service in order to qualify for this benefit. If you’re dismissed from jury duty halfway through the day or sooner, we ask that you return to work for the rest of the day.
Exempt employees who work any portion of the week in which they are serving jury duty will be paid for the entire week. Non-exempt employees’ compensation will be calculated as straight time by the regular hourly rate of the employee, not to exceed eight hours in any one day. If required to serve on a jury for more than five days, employees may use remaining paid time off or take unpaid personal leave if needed.
Disputing an Employee’s Jury Duty Summons
If an employee’s absence will be an extreme inconvenience to your company, you may write a letter asking the court to excuse your employee from service. Writing a letter does not ensure that your employee will be excused, as these requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Sharing a detailed account of how your employee's absence will impact your business and your bottom line is your best bet at proving their attendance is imperative. If jury duty comes during busy season or an important business period, you can also request the summons to be deferred until a specified date.
While you can’t control who in your office will be randomly selected, you can control how your company handles jury duty leave. Be prepared for the inevitable by crafting a jury duty leave policy and communicating it to employees. Just be sure to brush up on your state and local requirements to ensure your policy is compliant. While jury duty might not be everyone’s favorite excuse to miss work, the silver lining is you can only serve once a year.