Jury duty is one of our civic responsibilities as individuals, but it can be arduous—it takes time away from work and even in some cases, time away from family, too. This can raise legal and policy questions for employers. Must an employer pay an employee who is not working because he or she is required to serve on a jury? Does the answer change dependent upon how long the trial lasts? Must the employer pay the full salary?
The answer to this question is somewhat more complex than it seems at first glance, primarily because the answer varies at the state and local level. At the federal level, there is no legal requirement that nonexempt employees are paid while they serve on a jury. That said, if an employee is exempt from overtime pay (which includes a requirement to be paid on a salaried basis), that individual’s salary must be paid for any week that the employee works at least a partial week. Employers need to keep this in mind and to be careful to implement jury duty pay policies fairly without risking exemptions.
However, as we mentioned, beyond the exemption consideration, the requirements vary significantly at the state and even local level. For example, some states do mandate that employers pay employees while they’re serving on a jury, possibly even mandating that full wages be paid for several days (though this is rare). Other states require payment to employees from employers but allow the employer to reduce the pay by any amount the employee is receiving as compensation for the jury duty itself. Still others have no required pay amount but do require employers to allow the employee to take an unpaid leave of absence without repercussions—which brings us to the next point: what else should an employer consider?
Employees on Jury Duty: Other Considerations
Generally speaking, an employer must allow an employee to serve on a jury without fear of losing his or her job and without fear of retaliation. Most of the time, this means it is treated like any other leave of absence.
Many states have laws that specifically prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who must serve as a juror or witness, and there are even fines and other punishments for employers who do not comply, including imprisonment!
It also varies as to how much notice an employee must give the employer and how quickly after the end of the service the employee must return to work—it can be as soon as the next hour of work!
Despite everything we’ve just covered, and despite the fact that it might be a hardship for the employer with little direct benefit, most employers do pay employees while they’re on jury duty (at least for a few days), even in the absence of a legal requirement to do so. Many even have a direct policy outlining the length of absence that will be paid for to cover jury duty. (If you do have such a policy, be sure to follow it consistently.)
What has your organization opted to do to handle employee absences for jury duty? Do you offer full pay for a specified number of days? Partial pay? Unpaid leave? What other steps have you taken to cover their absence?
*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.