Duty free

Juries are crucial to our country's democratic process. Without them, our legal system would grind to a halt. Therefore, it's essential that all citizens are available to serve on juries when called.

{mosimage} Juries are crucial to our country's democratic process. Without them, our legal system would grind to a halt. Therefore, it's essential that all citizens are available to serve on juries when called. Every state but Montana has a law addressing the issue of time off for jury duty. Most states prohibit employers from firing or disciplining employees called to serve on a jury, and a few states broadly restrict employers from trying to discourage or intimidate employees from serving on a jury.

But we prefer to place a positive spin on jury duty, and encourage employees to fulfill their civic responsibility and participate in the judicial system. You should have a simple yet clear policy in your Policy Handbook that addresses both your company's and the employee's responsibilities. A sample Jury Duty & Witness Pay Policy from the Trade Secrets Management Policy Handbook is downloadable here. Your policy should:

  • Explain that the company recognizes leave to serve on juries.
  • State that the company complies with federal and state laws with respect to reinstatement when jury service is complete.
  • Explain that an employee called for jury service must immediately notify the company.
  • State whether the Company pays for jury service (Pay may not required and jurors are often given some small compensation for service by the court. Refer to your state's laws regarding compensation.)
  • State that an employee is expected to be available to return to work immediately after the case concludes or the court recesses for the day.

A question of compensation
An important issue to many employers is whether they must pay an employee for time served on a jury. The laws regarding compensation vary by state, and you should check with your state restaurant association or do a simple internet search to determine your obligations. Try Googling " (your state's name) jury duty law".

Yet regardless of the law, lack of compensation for jury service places a financial burden on many employees, and prospective jurors cite a loss of pay as a legitimate reason for not serving. To help, many employers have jury-leave policies that provide for compensating employees for at least a portion of the time they are needed at court for jury service. Paying your staff during their service boosts morale as they recognize that their employer values their civic service. Offering paid jury service is a values statement about your company and may differentiate for your business in offering a competitive employment package.

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