Most adults in the United States are subject to being summoned for jury duty. Obviously, being summoned for jury duty has the potential of impacting an employee’s ability to work as anticipated. In order to protect employees and permit them to perform their civic duty, all states have passed jury duty leave laws that afford employees some level of protection when responding to a jury summons and serving on a jury. Because jury duty leave laws are state-specific, there are different variations and levels of protection afforded employees depending on where they work. Employers must be aware of their obligations and limitations when dealing with employees who are summoned for jury service. Below is a discussion of the most common elements of jury duty laws and which states have adopted them.
Mandatory jury duty leave
All states prohibit employers from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise penalizing employees for responding to jury summons or serving on a jury. Unlawful penalties may include demotions and loss of seniority. Some states have gone as far as specifically requiring employers to award pay increases or promotions to employees who would have received them but for the jury service. These states include Arizona, Rhode Island, and Washington. In many states, the law also specifically prohibits employers from threatening, intimidating, or coercing an employee into not responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury, although it is likely unlawful for employers in other states to do so as well because employees are generally legally required to respond to a summons or serve on a jury, unless otherwise excused from doing so. Some states, such as Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, do provide some exceptions to jury duty leave obligations if an employers is small enough or if the financial hardship would be too significant.
Employee required to give proper notice
Although all states require employers to provide jury duty leave, some exempt employers from discipline prohibitions if employees fail to provide notice of their jury summons. For example, Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia require employees to inform their employers of a jury summons the next work day after they receive it in order to avoid discipline for jury duty leave. Other states, such as California, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Virginia, are more lenient and only require that employees provide notice to their employer of a summons within a responsible period of time after receiving it or before jury service is to begin.
Paid or unpaid jury leave
The majority of states do not require employers to pay employees for jury duty leave. However, there are a handful that do, although depending on the state, the employer may not be required to pay the employee the full amount of wages that would have otherwise been earned. Alabama, Nebraska, and Tennessee require employers to pay employees for all wages the employee would have earned had they not served jury duty, although they may deduct any jury service fees received by the employee for serving on the jury. Other states only require employers to pay the employee for a certain number of days and/or a certain amount of money per a day. For example, New York requires employers with more than 10 employees to pay up to $40 of an employee’s regularly daily wages for the first three days a jury service. Other states that limit an employer’s obligation to pay employees for jury service include Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Massachusetts.
Jury duty and vacation leave
As part of the protections for employees who respond to a jury summons or serve on juries, some states prohibit employers from requiring employees to take paid vacation, sick, or other annual leave while they fulfill their obligations as jurors. Thus, an employer cannot penalize employees who are legally compelled to respond to a jury summons or serve on a jury by making them forfeit future paid days off. These prohibitions on employers forcing employees to take paid leave do not prohibit employees from choosing to take paid leave pursuant to their employers leave policies. States that prohibit employers from forcing employees to take paid leave while performing jury service include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.
Other miscellaneous limitations
In addition to the limitations discussed above, some states have included other miscellaneous provisions in their jury duty leave laws. For example, in Tennessee, if an employee is summoned for jury duty and is working a night shift or is working during hours preceding those in which court is normally held, the employee must be excused from work for the shift immediately preceding the employee’s first day of service. After the first day of service, when the employee’s responsibility for jury duty exceeds three hours during a day, the employee must be excused from the employee’s next scheduled work period occurring within 24 hours of the day of jury service. Similarly, in Connecticut, an employee who serves eight hours of jury duty in one day is deemed to have performed a legal day’s work and cannot be required by an employer to work on that day. Other states have their own miscellaneous provisions of which employers must be aware.
Pursuant to state laws, employers are required to allow employees to respond to jury summons and serve on juries without disciplining or penalizing them in any way. However, each state has its own requirements that may provide additional obligations or prohibition on employers, such as paying the employee while on jury duty, not requiring employees to take paid leave, and other miscellaneous provisions. Employers must be aware of their obligations related to employee jury service and ensure that their policies comply with state requirements. Failure to do so may lead to unwanted legal headaches. Find out more about the requirements of the jury duty leave laws of the state(s) where your employees work.