Must an Employer Pay Employees Serving Jury and/or Witness Duty?

gavel-568417_1280The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require employers to pay for time off to fulfill jury duty, though some states do mandate that this time be paid.  In most cases, it is a matter of agreement reached between employers and employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 87 percent of employers surveyed say they do offer paid leave for jury duty.

Because a lengthy period of jury duty can be so disruptive, some employers may apply pressure to keep employees from serving on a jury, encouraging them to somehow get out of it.  However, most states prohibit employers from firing or disciplining employees for jury service, and some states take this prohibition a step farther by making it illegal to discourage service.

Even if your state does not require that you pay employees for time spent in jury service, it may stipulate that employees can choose to use paid leave that they’ve accrued during this time.  Once a policy is adopted at your company, make sure it is addressed clearly in your company handbook, leaving no room for misinterpretation.

Your company’s “Jury and Witness Duty Leave” policy should include these elements:

  • Guarantee the right to jury service. Clearly state that employees won’t be penalized for service on a jury.
  • Define jury leave. Is the leave with or without pay?  If you opt for leave with pay, have you specified a number of days per year? (Make sure employees know if money received from the court will be subtracted from their checks.)  Also, define your witness leave policy.  (Generally, employees called as witnesses are only allowed leave without pay.)
  • Identify jury duty exceptions. State your right to ask the court for a deferment of jury duty in the case of a “business necessity.”
  • Require proof of jury service. This usually involves a court summons.
  • List work conditions. For example: “Jurors released early from duty on workdays will call and ask their supervisors if they should report to work for the rest of the day.”

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