Jury duty is something many dread, but the fact of the matter is that, in most cases, a person is required by law to report for jury duty.
While the jury duty process can be stressful enough in itself, many workers—especially those who live paycheck to paycheck—worry about the impact jury duty will have on their jobs. How many days will they need to miss? How many hours of work might be missing from their paychecks as a result?
These are real worries that employees have, deservedly so.
Currently, the federal government forbids employers from taking negative action against an employee for reporting to mandatory jury duty, like firing them or punishing them in any way. This is spelled out in the Jury Selection and Service Act.
Unfortunately, there is no federal requirement for paid time off for jury duty, leaving it up to states to decide whether to require PTO. Although most states stick with the federal minimum of unpaid time off for jury duty, a few states require PTO, while others make it illegal to require employers to take PTO for jury duty.
States that Require PTO for Jury Duty
- District of Columbia
- New York
Currently, only eight states plus the District of Columbia require paid time off for employees reporting for jury duty. Like PTO payout regulations and PTO laws vary by state, the laws surrounding jury duty PTO also differ between states in terms of how much employers have to pay and for how many days.
For example, Alabama employers must pay workers reporting for jury duty their full pay for each day they’re required to report without deducting the juror fee paid by the state, according to Section 12-16-8 of Alabama’s legal code. However, only full-time employees fall within these regulations, so employers don’t need to do the same for part-time workers.
On the other hand, Colorado employers are only required to pay workers for the first three days of jury duty. Additionally, the law only requires them to pay $50 per day for each of those days, although employers can choose to pay more.
Part-time and temporary workers can also be included in this regulation if they’ve worked within the three months prior to their jury duty service.
Then there’s Louisiana, which requires only one day of paid jury duty leave, regardless of how many days the employee has to report.
Some states only require their employers to pay the employee’s regular daily wage minus what the state pays for jury. Nebraska is an example of a state that operates this way.
To illustrate, say a Nebraska employee earns an average of $85 per day. They are required to report for 10 days of jury duty. Their employer must pay $50 per day ($85 minus the state jury duty fee of $35) for those 10 days, or $500 total. This is in addition to the $350 they’d receive from the state for jury duty.
States can also define what employers are subject to paid jury duty leave. New York, for example, doesn’t require employers with 10 or fewer employees to pay, but employers with more than 10 employees have to pay $40 per day for the first three days of a worker’s absence for jury duty.
States that Bar Employers From Making Employees Take Paid Leave
- New Mexico
Fifteen states have laws that prevent employers from requesting or forcing employees to use paid time off, sick time, or any other earned leave when they report for mandatory jury duty. An employee may choose to use their paid leave for jury duty, but their employer can’t force it as a condition of their service.
Three states—Alabama, Louisiana, and Nebraska—have both this law and a paid jury duty law in place.
In these states, employers must pay their employees for jury duty according to the law’s requirements and cannot request that employees use their paid leave instead of receiving regular pay for the days they miss for jury duty.
The other 12 states only have laws protecting employees’ earned leave from being used for their time away from work while serving jury duty.
Most states have similar language for this law. Using Arizona as an example, the states with this law generally have a version of the following in their statutes:
“An employer shall not require or request an employee to use annual, vacation or sick leave for time spent responding to a summons for jury duty, participating in the jury selection process or actually serving on a jury.”
Under this law, employers cannot force any type of leave on an employee for time spent serving on a jury, but they also can’t do so if an employee needs to miss work to respond to their summons or go through the selection process.
Some states word this law slightly differently by stating that employers can’t take away or withhold the rights of employees serving jury duty. For example, here’s what Vermont says:
“No employer may discharge an employee by reason of his or her service as a juror, or penalize such employee or deprive him or her of any right, privilege, or benefit on a basis which discriminates between such employee and other employees not serving as jurors.
All employees shall be considered in the service of their employer during all times while serving as jurors in accordance with this section for purposes of determining seniority, fringe benefits, credit toward vacations, and other rights, privileges, and benefits of employment.”
Virginia’s code protects employees from virtually any employer penalization for serving on jury duty, including keeping their current and future benefits and leave credits safe.
It’s important to note that most state statutes also include rules surrounding an employee’s responsibility to give their employer proper notice of their absence for jury duty.
For example, Alabama requires employees to notify their employer on their next day of employment following their summons to report. If an employee fails to give the proper notice, the employer may not be required to follow the state’s jury duty laws.
Why Offer PTO for Jury Duty If Your State Doesn’t Require It
Even if your state doesn’t require payment for jury duty, it’s still a good idea to include it in your PTO policy.
Jury duty is mandatory for employees who get summoned. Unless they have a valid excuse, they have to serve. This can take a toll on hourly employees, especially, who rely on their hours worked to boost their paychecks.
In some cases, jurors have to report for several days or weeks, meaning lots of potential missed work. Payments for jurors often aren’t enough to match what they’d make in a typical workday, so offering paid time off for summoned employees is a welcome benefit.
Even if you provide jury duty PTO for just a few days, it’s better than nothing. And it’s just a small way to add a little protection to an unexpected event that could otherwise lead to a significant loss of wages.
If you’re in a state that bars employers from requiring employees to use paid leave for jury duty, you can still provide PTO as a benefit for those summoned for jury duty. You just have to create clear guidelines for it when writing your PTO policy.