The Jury Systems Improvement Act, a federal law, says employers can be held liable for terminating or intimidating employees because of their service on a federal jury.
But that’s only half the story. Most states also set their own—often more employee-friendly—rules regardingfor state and local jury duty.
Bottom line: Don’t try to dissuade workers from serving on juries. And draft a policy that explains leave protections for jury service in both federal and state courts.
While the federal law does not require you to pay employees for their time spent away on jury duty, some state laws do (see Online resource below).
Recent case: A health care company told Andrew Arnold he was being fired for his poor work performance. But because he was fired in the middle of federal jury service, Arnold suspected the real reason was that he would miss a substantial amount of work because of jury duty.
Arnold had been ushered to the HR office and terminated right after he told his boss he had been selected to serve on a grand jury and would likely be out for a long time. The court ruled, yes, Arnold could take his case before a jury. (Arnold v. Beth Abraham Health Services, No. 09-Civ-7932, SD NY, 2010)
Final note: Federal law provides for reinstatement if the employee can show that his employer violated the law. That reinstatement must include all benefits lost, including insurance coverage and seniority. Plus, employers can be fined $5,000 for each violation. In some cases, they may be ordered to perform community service.
Online resource: To access an interactive map showing each state’s law on jury duty leave, see the CCH Business Toolkit.