Jury duty is an essential part of civic duties in the United States. As a responsible citizen, you are supposed to comply when you are called to be part of a jury. While it is mandatory for every citizen, nursing mothers and employees who are already on a leave for any significant reason can get an exemption.
In this case, it becomes important for the employer to provide jury leave to their employees. There are a few terms that must be associated with it.
Important Rules Regarding Jury Duty
As an HR professional, you must be aware of the rules associated with the Jury Selection and Service Act. Here are some important facts and rules that you must know while providing leave for jury duty to your employees:
A Jury Duty Leave May not be Compensated
As per FLSA (Fair Labor and Standards Act), employers don’t need to compensate for jury duty leave. However, many employers do provide paid time off for jury leave since it is a civic duty. Jurors, i.e. employees selected to render the duties of a jury member, are usually paid up to $50 per day. They may also receive additional compensation for travel and food. However, this amount might not be enough to manage their expenses. Therefore, many employers provide paid jury duty leave to their employees.
In some states such as Colorado, Nebraska, Tennessee, New York, Alabama, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, employers need to provide paid jury duty leave to their employees.
Jury leaves can extend from a few days to many months depending upon the nature of the case.
Whether to compensate the employees for the jury duty leaves or not is normally a business decision. However, as per the law, you cannot terminate or suspend employees who are on jury duty leave. Ensuring the job security of the employees who are on a leave for jury duty is mandatory.
Requesting to Excuse the Employees from Jury Duty
Sometimes, you may have to request the court to excuse your employee from carrying out their jury duty. You can do so if the leaves cause a major inconvenience or loss to your business. While requesting the court to exclude the employee from the jury group is an option, your request may or may not be accepted by the court.
The chances of approval are higher if you write a detailed email or letter to the court explaining how the absence of a particular employee will affect your business. It is also possible to request the court to schedule the hearing for another date that does not fall during the peak business period. In such cases, the court may defer the summons if it feels that your reasoning is justified.
Constituting a Jury Duty Leave Policy
Predicting which employees the court may summon to fulfill the jury duty is impossible. However, you can make a comprehensive jury duty policy for your organization and employees. This policy should be such that it minimizes the impact on work and should be beneficial to employees too.
Managing Workload during Jury Duty Leave
The duration of jury duty cannot be estimated, it is dependent on the duration of the case. While most businesses can manage workloads for jury leaves for up to a week if the case continues for many weeks, it could seriously affect the organization’s productivity. Also, finding a replacement employee in such a short period is next to impossible. To avoid such situations, businesses must prepare well in advance.
Managers can train employees to handle multiple duties which will prove handy when some employees must take long leaves. Having extra employees on a roll to manage the workload can pay off in such emergency situations. However, having extra employees on the payroll each month can be a drain on company resources.
Instead, focusing on creating a comprehensive training program that focuses on guiding the employees to handle multiple job roles simultaneously can be useful.
Compensation for Jury Duty Leave
Compensating the employees on this type of leave is not mandatory. However, you cannot ignore that too many leaves will affect their financial condition. To help them manage their finances in a better way, you can create a jury duty leave policy with fair compensation rules. The rules in the policy must be such that they should not burden the organization’s finances either.
For example, you can offer a paid jury duty leave for the first week to reduce the financial strain on employees. You can also allow the employees to use their paid leaves in case jury duty continues for more than a week. Also, if the employees work on other days of the week not scheduled by the court for the hearing, you may provide them compensation for the entire week.
While creating an effective jury duty leave policy is in your hands, you must consider the financial condition of the employees and the organization before finalizing the policy rules and terms.
Collecting Evidence for Jury Duty Leave
Trusting employees should be the primary method for jury leave approval. But if you feel that there is a chance that employees are misusing this leave type, you can request the court summons to verify authenticity.
Sample of a Jury Duty Leave Policy
Our organization will provide paid time off for all jury duty leaves of up to seven days. The employees are requested to keep their court summons ready when asking for a leave. If any employee gets terminated from the jury, they will be expected to rejoin work the very next day.
If your jury leave extends beyond 7 days:
- The employees who work for a substantial part of the week during jury duty leave will be compensated for the complete week.
- The employees who work for a few hours a week during the scheduled jury duty service will be paid on an hourly basis.
If any employee is found to be misusing their jury leaves they will face disciplinary action.
Before constituting the jury duty policy, you must understand the federal and state laws on jury duty leave and compensation. If the employees have a solid reason to refuse jury duty, you can help them in refusing the duty.
However, all the proceedings from your end should be entirely legal. You can ask the managers to be ready for such situations so that their team’s productivity is unhampered even if there are a few employees on jury duty leave.