One of the most important parts of our judicial system in the United States is the right to be tried by a jury of your peers. Those peers are selected from a pool of eligible jurors, usually from the area that the case is being heard. At one time they were selected from the list of registered voters. However, today the list is compiled from people who file taxes, have driver’s licenses, bought a house, and many other ways. If you are a citizen in the US, you can be called to serve jury duty. Juries are usually made up of six to twelve jurors.
The jurors who are called upon to serve jury duty are required by law to serve for however long the trial takes. While this is one of most important civic duties a person can participate in, it can be difficult for a juror to put their life on hold while participating. Their families and their jobs can suffer. There are many people who try to avoid serving on jury due to this disruption. One of the biggest concerns is loss of pay. While the Federal government does not have any specific law handling pay during jury duty, jury duty is somewhat covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ensuring that an employee cannot be fired for serving jury duty. The matter of pay during that service is covered by State law and each state has different laws for handling this issue.
There are currently seven states that require employers to pay employees – Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee. There are also eleven states who do not allow employers to require employees to take any kind of paid leave, such as sick leave or paid vacation time, while serving jury duty. But each state has different specifics for jury duty. Some of these laws include:
- Payment of up to a specific amount for a set number of days
- Payment of full time wages during absence
- Requires unpaid leave for the duration of jury duty
- Prohibits penalizing an employee for time spent in jury duty
- Employee must retain the same position as when they left for jury duty
While the laws vary from state to state, most protect the employee from being penalized for participating. However, the majority of states do not require the employer to provide any type of financial compensation for time spent on jury duty. The states that do require employer payment to the juror, put limitations on it. Most only pay for three to five days of jury duty participation. Also, the amount is limited, such as no more than $50.00 per day. These requirements are also usually limited only to full time employees. So, a part time employee who gets called to jury duty would not be eligible for this benefit.
Serving jury duty is an important civic service, the small amount that the courts pay to those who participate on the jury does not usually make up the loss in pay. With so few states requiring employers to pay wages to employees on jury duty, it is no wonder so many are hesitant to take part in jury duty. It is not unheard of for cases to drag on for much longer than the jury members can afford to lose. While they are assured of having their jobs when they return, the financial burden may be tougher to overcome.