Q. We are a small company and can't afford to have an employee on extended leave. Can we legally terminate an employee who is called to jury duty and assigned to a lengthy trial? —J.W., New Jersey
A. Don't do it. The Federal Protection of Jurors' Employment Act prohibits employers from discharging employees for taking time off work to serve on a jury. Many states have similar laws. For example, in New Jersey an employer can't penalize, threaten or coerce an employee based on the employee's attendance in court for jury service.
Most states do not require you to pay workers who are serving on a jury. Some require either a limited amount or full pay. For example, New York requires limited pay and Tennessee generally requires full pay less juror compensation.
In addition, few states prohibit you from requiring employees to use vacation or sick days while on jury duty, but requiring employees to use their leave could be deemed a violation of public policy.