Most employers know the value of everyone serving on juries, acting as witnesses in criminal and civil trials, and voting in elections. But many business owners and managers don’t understand their legal obligations when it comes to employees who are participating in legal system or an election.
Paying Employees for Jury Duty, going to vote or acting as a witness in court
The most important issue to many employers is whether they must pay an absent employee for missed hours or days of work when they serve on a jury, vote, or serve as a witness. Many state and/or local laws do require paid time off for these specific employee absences, as do many formal and informal company policies.
No federal law for hourly employee jury duty pay
If no state/local laws or your employee attendance policies state otherwise, you do not have to pay hourly employees for time off work spent responding to a summons, voting or serving on a jury.
Exempt employees and jury duty pay
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if an exempt employee performs any work during the workweek when serving on jury duty, the exempt/salaried employee’s regular weekly salary must be paid. Employers are permitted to deduct time from an exempt/salaried employee’s leave balance in partial-day increments, but partial-day deductions reducing the employee’s pay are prohibited.
If you have paid leave and a company policy on partial day deductions, make sure jury duty and other legal/civil employee absences are addressed.
Even if you don’t pay them, you can’t fire them
It is generally illegal to terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee for fulfilling jury duty obligations or taking time off to vote. This special type of employee absenteeism cannot be combined with other employee absences to justify firing an employee. Make sure whatever tools you use for tracking employee absences allows you to treat these missed hours or days differently.
Many states also prohibit discrimination against employees who miss work to participate in judicial proceedings as a witness or victim, especially in cases involving domestic violence. If no state or local law applies, employers have discretion to implement their own rules for handling these types of leave.
Importance of Consistent Enforcement
It is important for you to know and consistently enforce your own employee attendance rules for handling jury duty, voting, and court proceedings leave. Your business policies and the on-going company norm, along with state and local laws, will dictate whether time off for this type of employee absence is paid or unpaid, whether employees are required to provide documentation (e.g., proof of jury duty service or a witness subpoena) and whether employees are permitted, or required, to use paid sick/vacation time.