Q. We are a very 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?
A. One of the very few exceptions to the general principle that at-will employees can be terminated for any reason is that employees cannot be discharged in violation of a public policy. Courts have generally narrowly applied this exception, but it has been held to apply to a situation in which an employee is terminated for serving on a jury.
Although you cannot terminate an employee because of the employee’s jury service, it may be permissible to terminate an employee who will be absent for a long period of time if you would take the same action regardless of the reason the employee is out (putting aside the requirements regarding providing leave in a disability context).
You should tread carefully, however, and consult with your attorney before taking action.