It finally happened.
I was summoned . . . to jury duty. I think I’ve hit those true crime podcasts and legal dramas a little too hard because I was ecstatic for this summons. An opportunity to preform my civic duty by being one of 12 VIPs in a courtroom? Yes. Please.
As I held my summons letter from the Milwaukee County Courthouse with great excitement and pride, reality set in. I would have to miss work for this epic honor! I joined 8-10 million U.S. citizens who report for jury duty annually who may have had the same thought cross their minds.
As an employer, what’s the best way to handle employees summoned to jury duty? Here’s a handy guide for managing employee leave due to jury duty:
1. Refer to Your Jury Duty Leave Policy
Communicate your organization’s jury duty leave policy by including it in your employee handbook. The policy should outline expectations around notifying managers, showing proof of summons and demonstrating proof of serving, as well as explain how to handle early dismissals and how many absences will be compensated. It should also address how the policy applies to exempt and nonexempt employees. If you don’t have a policy in order (No one is judging if you don’t!) and want some ideas to get started, post in the Foundation Community online forum and see what other International Foundation members have come up with for their policies.
2. Plan Ahead
In almost every case, workers will have plenty of notice ahead of time that they’ve been summoned. Communicate that advance notice of absences for jury duty is required, which would be true for any type of leave. Jury duty service is notoriously unpredictable. If the employee is chosen to serve on a jury, the case could go on for months! If the employee is dismissed early in the day, he or she could likely come into work for the remainder of the day. Planning ahead as much as possible will help everything on the docket to run smoothly, whether an employee is gone for two days or two weeks. If the employer absolutely cannot live without the employee while he or she is serving (because there’s a business-related trip already booked, for example), the employer can write a letter to the court asking that the jury duty be postponed. The court will consider the employer’s and employee’s request for postponement on a case-by-case basis.
3. Know the Jury Duty Laws in Your State(s)
Jury duty leave is not mandated by federal law. Instead, almost every state has instituted laws requiring employers to provide employees with time off from work (and sometimes paid time off from work) in order to perform their civic duty. Here’s a list of laws in each state. According to the International Foundation’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey, the majority (89%) of U.S. employers offer paid jury duty leave.
Want to know the verdict of my jury duty experience?
I was dismissed at the very end of day one. I never made it into a courtroom, never got to answer questions or raise my hand, never got to try out the judge’s gavel (Oh, they don’t let you do that?) or say habeaus corpus. Instead, I used the eight hours of waiting time to write this blog, catch up on emails and drink lots of just-okay courthouse coffee.
Communications Associate at the International Foundation
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