Employees on Jury Duty: What You Need to Know

In some states, you’re required to continue paying your employees while they're out on jury duty. Use this guide to shape your jury duty policy and avoid breaking the law.

Updated July 30, 2020

I’ve heard people talk about jury duty in two ways: It’s either an exciting reprieve from daily life or an unwelcome distraction from work.

No matter your feelings, jury duty can’t be avoided, so business owners should be prepared for when an employee gets a jury summons in the mail.

Overview: What is jury duty?

U.S. citizens called for jury duty must make themselves available to participate in the judicial system.

You usually receive a letter in the mail — called a jury duty summons — that explains where and when to serve jury duty. If you’re working that day, you’re required to miss work to comply. When you arrive at the courthouse, you’ll be considered to serve in a civil or criminal proceeding assembling a jury.

Jury duty can last just a few hours or many months. You can be dismissed from jury duty after the first day, but you could end up on a trial that lasts months. Some people, like the elderly and those who work in volunteer emergency services, might be excused from serving on a jury.

When you’re serving jury duty, the government pays between $5 and $60 per day, sometimes with provisions like mileage and parking reimbursement. Pay for jury duty differs by the number of days of the proceeding and the type of court you’re serving on.

For example, federal grand jury pay starts at $50 per day and rises to $60 per day after serving 10 days on a trial. A federal petit jury pays $50 per day for the first 45 days and gets ratcheted up to $60 per day for the remainder of the trial.

Business owners must let their employees serve jury duty when summoned.

Small businesses feel acute pain when employees go to serve jury duty. While paying staff out on jury duty might create a stressful situation, remember that your employees have no choice whether, when, or how long they will be required to serve on a jury.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Jury Duty

Do you have to pay employees selected for jury duty?

Short answer: maybe. Whether you pay your employees while serving jury duty depends on your state and the number of days your employee serves on a trial.

There’s no federal mandate that employers pay those who miss work for jury duty. However, many states require employers to compensate their employees for the first few days of serving jury duty, and a couple of states require full compensation for as long as the employee is serving.

Whether your employee is out on jury duty or working at your business, payroll works the same way. Any pay you provide to the employee is still subject to payroll taxes, and they’re still entitled to the same voluntary benefits.

What penalties can employers face for a violation of a jury duty statute?

As an employer, there’s nothing you can do to keep your employees from performing their civic duty. You can’t penalize them for going to jury duty.

Federal law prevents employers from firing workers who serve jury duty. A slew of states mandate that employees can’t be told to use paid time off while out on jury duty.

The penalties for violating a jury duty statute depend on the state but can range from paying thousands in fines to reinstating the fired employee to serving up to 30 days in prison.

Say that Jane, who works at a bakery in Connecticut, gets called for jury duty. Jane tells her boss, Fleur, the day before she’s due at the courthouse.

Knowing that she can’t find another employee to cover Jane’s shift at the last minute, Fleur tells Jane that she’s forbidden from fulfilling jury duty. She tells Jane that if she goes, she’s going to end up like a burnt loaf of bread: in the bin.

The law is on Jane’s side. While the Connecticut judicial branch recommends that employees give their employers as much notice as possible, employers must let their employees serve as jurors when called to do so.

If Fleur tries to fire Jane for going to jury duty the next day, Jane can sue the bakery for lost wages and job reinstatement. Fleur could face criminal penalties for the misstep.

Consider making a jury duty policy that outlines both your state’s jury duty compensation laws and your business’s protocol for employees who get selected to serve.

While it’s not mandated in every state, you should recommend that employees submit a time-off request as soon as they’re notified about jury duty.

Which states require employers to pay employees during jury duty?

Eight states and one territory require that employers pay at least some compensation while their employees serve jury duty:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Tennessee

Most of these mandate that employees receive either their regular pay or between $30 and $50 per day for the first few days of jury service. After that, employers no longer owe any compensation to employees serving on a trial.

Many of these make exceptions for small businesses — usually defined as those with 10 or fewer employees — that exempt them from the compensation requirement.

Alabama and Nebraska stand out as the states that require full compensation for the entire time an employee serves on a jury.

While Nebraska allows employers to reduce their employees’ compensation by the amount they’re paid as jurors, Alabama requires full pay for employees selected as jurors.

If you pay your employee a reduced rate, don’t forget to adjust compensation amounts in your payroll software before you process payroll.

Employers often require that employees use their paid time off while out on jury duty. That’s illegal in 15 states:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah:
  • Vermont
  • Virginia

Jury duty pay and leave laws vary by state, so check with your state’s judicial branch website.

Make your jury duty policy now

It behooves small business owners to have a jury duty policy before an employee must take time off to fulfill their responsibility as a U.S. citizen. Check with your state’s judicial branch to determine whether you’re required to pay your employees while they’re out on jury duty.

No one wants to be surprised by an employee’s juror summons, but it’s much worse if you don’t have a policy in place.

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