The Dos And Don’ts Of Jury Duty: A Quick Guide For Employers And Employees

The Dos And Don’ts Of Jury Duty: A Quick Guide For Employers And Employees

Deskera Content Team
Deskera Content Team
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

According to the April Pew Research Center Survey, 67% of the adults in the U.S. feel that one of the highest duties that you can offer your country is serving on a jury.

Does getting called in for jury duty make you feel anxious? Fret not, you are not alone. A letter from the court can make anyone feel stressed out. But with some thoughtful planning and communication, your jury duty can turn out to be a smooth experience for you.

Jury duty is a civic responsibility and performing your duty should not make you nervous.

The National Center for State Courts is an independent research organization that focuses on the state judiciary, and they have estimated that out of the entire population, only about 15% are actually summoned for jury duty. What’s more? Only about 5% out of the 15% actually end up being a part of a jury. This data was collected by surveying 1546 counties, this representing 70% of the population in the U.S. at the time.

Table Of Contents

What Is Jury Duty?

A civic responsibility, jury duty is an obligation wherein U.S. citizens receive a summon from a court to serve as a juror during a court proceeding. A jury ensures the defendant's Sixth Amendment right, thus affording them the right to a speedy trial and an impartial jury. Citizens are summoned by the federal government or the state government to take part in a selection process. If they make it through this selection process, they are chosen to be part of a jury. A body of 12 people is put together and sworn. Joined by a juror, this body then passes a judgment, renders a verdict, and chooses a penalty to be fulfilled in a legal case.

Citizens who are called for jury duty must appear before a court or else they risk being held in contempt of court. The entire selection process typically takes one day. However, the actual jury duty that a person has to do can last for anything from one day to several months, depending on the length of the trial. Jury duty is applicable to both criminal cases and civil cases. While in a criminal case the jury must make a unanimous decision, this may not be the case for civil cases in case they are instructed otherwise.

How Does Jury Duty Work?

Citizens receive official summons calling them for jury duty at a specific place on a particular date and time. The first step to becoming a part of the jury is to fill out a questionnaire, and then the selection process for the jury begins. However, there are a number of scenarios that can unfold when a person is called for jury duty. For starters, a citizen may request a delay or postponement to a more suitable time. They may be granted this request, and the process includes a phone call, along with filling out a questionnaire. They may also be asked to suggest an alternate date and time in the future that suits them and when they are able to offer their service.

Given that the rules of granting a request for delay or postponement differ depending on the jurisdiction, there is no guarantee whatsoever that such a request will always be entertained.  In another scenario, citizens may also request to be exempted from their jury duty altogether. Just like a request for delay or postponement, there is no guarantee that a request for exemption will be entertained.

Some of the reasons that can increase the chances of getting an exemption from jury duty may include medical reasons, financial problems, full-time student status, and duties as a caregiver. Additionally, some municipalities also afford potential jurors the right to call the court a night before to confirm if their services will be required the next day.

How are you selected for Jury duty?

Potential jurors are required to fill out a questionnaire as the first step of the selection process. They are then called upon and questioned by lawyers for each side. Any juror who seems to be biased can be dismissed by the court. At times, they might not even be called upon if there are no places left on the jury to fill. In case they are dismissed early in the day, they can be expected to go back to work for the rest of the day. Depending on how long the trial lasts, the chosen jurors are expected to be a part of the jury till the case is concluded.

Time Off And Pay For Jury Duty

Jury duty availability is mandated by law, so employers in almost all states are required to give their employees time off of work so they can perform their civic duty. Given the unpredictable nature of jury duty, it can create a difficult situation for an employer and may even cost them extra money. So, in case an employee is summoned for their jury duty at a time when they stand to make a significant loss in the absence of their employee, the employer has the right to write a letter to the court explaining the same. The outcome of such a request varies from one case to another.

Some states in the U.S. have laws that favor employees and do not allow employers to subtract the payment for the time they took off to perform their jury duty. Although, it must be noted that this varies depending on whether the person works for state government or federal government or local government, or just a private company. In addition to this, federal law also prevents employers from firing an employee who is required to perform jury duty. This dictates that employees are allowed to report back to work as soon as they are done with their jury duty.

Dos and Don’ts of Jury Duty as an Employer

Stay Abreast with the State’s Jury Duty Leave Laws and Regulations

The amount of paid time off that should be given to the employees depends upon your state. That is why you need to pay attention to your state laws if you want to avoid penalties.

Ensure that your employees’ jobs are safe

Your business can suffer if your employee gets called in. This is the reason why you need to be proactive in communicating that your employee’s job is protected while doing their duty.

Have a plan in place

Make sure you have a plan in place in case the employee gets called away for a week.

Think about the paid time that you can offer. Also, ensure who will come forward to cover them? What is the right time to tell you that they have been summoned? Thinking about these situations can help you provide a smooth experience.

Know about your jury duty policies

Ensure that your employees have a clear understanding of the jury duty policies, so they can be aware of what exactly will happen when they are away.

Get ready to be summoned

Don’t lose your calm and carefully go through the letter you received, as it would highlight the steps you require to handle your jury duty summons.

Don’t threaten your employees

Never ever threaten or fire your employees. Be aware of the laws that govern federal and state jury duty service.

Inform your employer or manager as soon as you’re called up

Since the amount of time that you have to serve is not clear, make sure you notify your employer immediately so that he can take requisite action accordingly. It can even take up to half a month in some cases.

Be clear with your state’s jury duty leave laws and regulations

Since your employee protections depend on your state, your employer may not be fully aware of them. That is why it is important to be aware of jury duty laws and regulations of your state.

Know your employer’s jury duty policies

It is very important to know how much paid time off you can get, and who will cover for you. This will help you have a stress-free jury duty experience.

Communicate your situation

If you think that serving on the jury will put you under a financial constraint, then you can talk to the judicial committee. They might change their decision depending upon your pay stub, company policies, etc.

Don’t think about losing your job

You won’t lose your job if you serve on jury duty. So, just relax, and keep calm.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Remember that it is your right to understand the whole situation. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Don’t delay reading your jury duty summons

The jury duty laws vary by state. So, even if you want to postpone the summon, you will have to respond by a certain date. That is why it is advisable to open your letter as soon as possible so that you can take the necessary action at the earliest.

Don’t visit the court more than once a year

You can be summoned for jury duty only once every 12-month period, legally. So, in case you get a summon before that, reach out to the court so that they can rectify the error.

Proof Of Jury Duty For Employer

Some employers may require their employees to submit proof of jury duty in some states. However, the right to request proof from an employee summoned to serve as part of a jury also varies from state to state, and the regulations can be easily confirmed from the state's administration regulation. Some states require employees to give reasonable notice to their employer if they are requested to serve as a juror.

The Federal Law 28 U.S. Code & 1875 – Protection of jurors’ employment, does state that employers are not allowed to fire, threaten to fire, intimidate or coerce any permanent employee if they are asked to serve as part of a jury. Any employer who fails to comply with this law and violates it shall be held accountable. In case the employer's state does not give them the right to ask their employees for proof of jury duty, a good alternative would be to discuss with employees about future work expectations to maintain a healthy work relationship.

Does Jury Duty Excuse You From Work All Day?

The simple answer to this question is Yes. Seeing as jury duty is a civic responsibility, employers are expected to give employees time off from work. The duration that employees are allowed to take time off depends on the duration of the service. Jurors are informed about the duration of the jury service in advance so they can make the necessary arrangements. The schedule of the trial or grand jury is shared with them so they can inform their employers beforehand. Two main considerations taken for essential workers and people working night shifts are:

  • Essential Work: Essential workers are also obligated to appear for jury service. However, if appearing for jury duty poses a real hardship for their work, they can request an exemption from the jury duty. They can ask the jury pool officer for assistance and ask for a hearing before a judge for the same. The end result depends on the judge’s discretion.
  • Night Shift: People working the night shift can get off work before midnight on the night before jury duty. They are also not allowed to work for the duration of their service. If they are released from duty after 4:00 PM on their last day of jury service, they are not required to work on the same day either.

Do You Get Paid For Jury Duty If You Are Not Selected?

Jurors can expect to be paid between $40 to $60 for their jury duty. The jurors need to go through a selection process on the first day they report for their jury duty. People who make it through the selection process are entitled to compensation. Those who do not make it through the selection process and do not offer their service will not be able to get the compensation. Employers are also not obligated to pay their employees who are not selected for jury service.

How Long Is Jury Duty?

Generally jury duty for most, but not all, people lasts for about 1 to 3 days. This means that most jurors are only expected to report for jury service for one day unless someone is assigned to a courtroom for jury selection or serves on a trial, in which case they can be assigned to jury duty more than one time in the duration of 12 months. Apart from the duty of jury selection, when the trial ends you are done with your jury service for at least one year, depending on your jurisdiction.

Conclusion

Jury duty is considered to be an important duty by a majority of the citizens. Given that it is a civic responsibility that the citizens must fulfill, it is essential for employers to allow their employees to take time off and fulfill their duty. Jury duty is assigned once in twelve months and lasts for one to three days.

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Key Takeaways

  • Jury duty is a civic responsibility, wherein citizens are summoned by the court to be a part of a 12-member body that passes a judgment and decides on the penalty to be fulfilled
  • Citizens who are summoned by the court for jury duty must report for the service, or else they can be held in contempt of the court
  • Those who are unable to report for their jury duty due to a hardship can apply for either postponement or exemption from their jury service. The result of such a request is left to the discretion of the judge who presides over it
  • In case an essential employee is asked for jury duty, the employer or the employee themselves can apply for an exemption, which can be granted at the judge’s discretion
  • Employees who are summoned for jury duty should be duly compensated by their employer and be allowed to take time off for the duration of their service
  • Employers that do not allow their employees to take time off for jury duty or try to prevent them from fulfilling their civic responsibility by threatening to discharge them are also held in courts contempt.
  • There are some dos and don’ts to be followed for jury duty as an employee
  • There are some dos and don’ts to be followed for jury duty as an employer
  • People on jury duty can expect to be paid around $30 to $60 depending on their jurisdiction and the duration of their jury duty
  • Employers may ask employees to provide proof of jury service. Employers can check if they have the right to ask employees for proof of jury service based on the state they are in and the laws in that specific state
  • Jury duty exempts employees from work for the entire day in case they are discharged from duty after 4:00 PM. People working night shifts are also exempted from working beyond midnight a night before they are supposed to appear for their jury service
  • Jury duty mostly lasts from about one to three days. Most people are done with their duty for about 12 months once they have completed their jury duty
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