Thursday, October 23, 2008

Employers Rights Regarding Jury Duty

The words "jury duty" are not music to an employer's ear. It means the employee may miss a few days of work, or even a week or more. Many employers believe they must pay the employee for the time missed. Employers can breathe a little easier if they understand Virginia Code § 18.2-465.1 and the Federal Jury System Improvement Act.

Virginia Code § 18.2-465.1 does not specifically mention payment of salary. It does, however, state that an employer may not discriminate against an employee who is called to jury duty. The Code states that the employer may not discharge the employee, or take any adverse personnel action. Also, upon reasonable notice by the employee, the employer may not require the employee to use sick days or vacation time for the appearance in court.

The Federal Jury System Improvements Act (28 USC §1875.) does not allow an employer to intimidate, coerce or otherwise discriminate against an employee who must attend jury duty. However, an employer is not required to pay an employee for time missed as long as the employer's actions would be the same toward any employee who missed work time.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has prepared a book that answers frequently asked questions about jury duty. That book, which is published on the Internet at www.courts.state.va.us/jury/cover.htm, states that "many employers will continue to pay your salary while you are in jury service."

Consumer Online at http://consumer.org.nz/problem/leg-jury.html also offers legal advice to jurors. The site states that employers are "encouraged", but not required, to pay their employees for time missed for jury duty. Also, if an employer decides to pay an employee for jury duty, then the fee normally paid to the juror will be paid to the employer for reimbursement.

One other interesting web site is http://www.ahipubs.com/problem_solvers/jury.html. This site is designed to answer employer's questions, such as how to handle a key employee has been called to jury duty. The site advises that an employer may ask an employee not to serve, but the employer must demonstrate to the court that an extreme hardship would be placed on the employer if the employee were required to serve. An employee may refuse an exemption from jury duty, even if secured by the employer. In that case, the employer may not, "threaten to [or] discharge, intimidate or coerce" or retaliate in any way for the time the employee serves on jury duty.

So long as an employer does not discriminate, violate an employee contract/policy or the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer does not have to pay an employee for time spent at jury duty. Nevertheless, an employer may not force an employee to use sick or vacation days for jury duty as long as reasonable notice has been given to the employer.

The following article is not meant to replace legal counsel, merely to serve as an educational supplement to Gross & Romanick's clients. If you'd like to speak with an attorney about your specific situatin, please contact Gross & Romanick directly by e-mailing law@gross.com , filling out our online form, or calling 703-273-1400.