Ah, jury duty! Everyone’s favorite civic responsibility. Codified in our founding documents as the only mandatory constitutional duty for individual citizens, about 32 million Americans are summoned for jury duty every year. As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to ensure your employees are available to fulfill this obligation—but what exactly does that mean?

Although the selection process for jury duty generally takes a day or two, if selected, your employee could be required to serve on a jury for several weeks, or even months. Without a proper plan in place, this can be disruptive for any organization.

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the federal and state regulations that govern time off and compensation for employees serving jury duty. We’ll also give you tips for putting a communication plan in place to let your employees know what they should do if they receive a summons letter.

Am I Legally Required to Allow My Employees to Report for Jury Duty?

Short answer? Yes.

The Jury System Improvement Act of 1978 prohibits employers from discharging, intimidating, threatening, or coercing any employee for fulfilling federal jury duty. Most states also require employers to provide unpaid leave for the duration of their employees’ jury service.

Not complying with federal and state jury duty laws has some hefty consequences for business owners. If you fail to comply, your organization may be subject to fines, taken to court, and/or held liable for lost wages or damages to affected employees.

Am I Required to Pay Employees for Time Spent Serving Federal Jury Duty?

Jurors in federal and grand jury trials are compensated for their time. As an employer, you are not required to compensate your employees in full or part for their time spent serving jury duty. Some employers opt to do so, but it is not required by federal law.

In the special situation of exempt salaried employees, specific rules apply. If you have an exempt salaried employee who works any time at all during the week—even if it’s less than a full day—and spends the rest of the week attending to jury obligations, you must pay that employee the week’s full salary. If the employee performs no work for the entire week, however, no pay is due.

Am I Required to Pay Employees for Time Spent Serving State or Local Jury Duty?

State and local requirements for compensating employees for jury duty vary by state. Some states also prohibit employers from mandating that employees use paid time off to serve as a juror. To avoid incurring penalties and/or fines for non-compliance, we recommend that you consult with your HR team, PEO, or legal counsel.

Communicating with Employees About Your Jury Leave Policies

To make the process of your employees taking off time for jury duty as smoothly as possible, you should have a communication plan in place to let your staff know how serving as a juror will affect their job duties, time off, and compensation.

Your employee handbook sets proper expectations for new hires and is a valuable resource for existing employees to review policies and find pertinent information that they may have forgotten. As such, it’s the perfect place to post your jury leave policies. Some specifics you may want to address include:

  • Do you offer paid time off for federal and/or local jury duty? If so, how much?
  • How should the employee alert management that they have been summoned for jury duty?
  • Who in your organization should an employee summoned to jury duty send updates about their status to?
  • What paperwork is required to verify jury duty?
  • Is your jury duty policy the same for both exempt and non-exempt employees?

As a business owner, you probably never envisioned yourself spending the day looking up complex employment laws to make sure your organization is compliant. It can be a time-consuming and odious task! Between payroll, health insurance, workers’ compensation issues, and other human resource (HR)-related functions, a business owner or manager can spend more time handling paperwork than actually running their business.

SWBC PEO (Professional Employer Organization) is dedicated to helping your business streamline operations so you can become more efficient and profitable. When you work with us, our team of experts will assist you in the performance of stressful and time-consuming tasks such as payroll, benefits, HR, and compliance, allowing you to focus on what’s most important–growing your business.