The Ills Effects of Jury Duty on Your Business
Jury duty is one of those things that most of us don’t look forward to, so don’t compound the problem by punishing employees if they’re called upon. Find out your state’s laws regarding employees’ rights for time off during jury duty. Make sure you define it for employees, and include the info in your employee handbook; this way you can avoid any objections while they’re doing their civic duty.
Lay Down the Law
Fox Small Business recently ran an article by my friend Susan Solovic entitled Jury Duty Shouldn’t Shut Down Your Business. The article focuses on how small business owners can keep their businesses running while they fulfill their civic duty. I want to focus on the legal and financial aspects of this obligation.
Giving time off to staff
Under federal law, employers cannot discharge employees who serve on jury duty, no matter how long their service lasts (states have a similar bar). Employers can be fined and even subject to criminal penalties for violating this rule.
Find a list of state laws on time-off policies and other employee protections here (there’s no date so I don’t know how current this information is).
Paying regular wages
For some employees, foregoing their usual pay and receiving only the nominal payment for jury duty service is a financial hardship. Businesses are not required under federal law to continue paying employees as if they were on the job, according to the Department of Labor. Nonetheless, many employers may be sympathetic. They can:
- Continue to pay wages to those who serve on jury duty. If so, they can request that employees turn over jury duty pay to employers (employees then deduct this amount on their income tax return so they’re not taxed on the jury duty pay).
- Pay the difference between their regular pay and what employees receive for serving on a jury.
Note: While federal law does not require continued wages, several states have some payment requirement. For example, Connecticut requires payment for serving on a jury for up to 5 days unless the employer petitions the court for a hardship exemption.
Learn what you must do under federal law and the law in your state. Then decide what you’d like to do above and beyond any requirements. Incorporate your company policy regarding jury duty in your company’s employee handbook.