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The Anthony Trial: What is your jury duty policy?

The media is all over Central Florida covering the Casey Anthony trial. The jury for this Central Florida trial was pulled from Pinellas County, here in the Tampa Bay area.   The group, once selected had just a weekend to pull their lives together before being  sequestered in the Orlando area for the next "several weeks."  The Judge did ask potential jurors if such a timeframe could be a "potential financial hardship."  He excused many who said yes.  

How would you handle your employee being gone for potential months? Would you be supportive? Here are some things to consider for your Jury Duty Policy.

1.  State your support of employees fulfilling their civic duty.  This is just good common sense for any employer.  

2.  Write letters requesting postponement if you have business needs that are important such as a trip or deadline that requires that particular employee.  I wrote several of these over the years (for different employees) and all were well received.  My employers supported this community request so we did not write letters so employees could get out of jury duty.  

3.  Require documentation.  Employees should give their employer as soon as received a copy of the summons notice.  

4.  Decide if this will this be paid or unpaid time?  Does the employee receive only the jury pay or the jury pay and your pay or does your pay supplement what your employee receives from the Court.  

5.  Will your benefits continue?  For how long? Insurance? Vacation?  

My experience has been that up to five days of jury duty covers most of the circumstances.  I have had an employee who was called three times in one year (all less than 5 days) and one who was called to serve for 6 weeks.  

6.  Employees should be required to keep their supervisor informed of their status in jury duty.

7.  Time spent on jury duty is generally counted as regular working time and not counted for overtime purposes.  For instance if the employee spent Monday on Jury Duty and worked 40 hours Tuesday through Friday--then he/she would receive 40 hours of regular pay (for the State of Florida) and then pay for whatever your jury duty policy says.

8.  Check with your state laws. NY, I believe has a law that requires an employer with more than 10 employees to pay at least the same amount as the jury duty amount (such as $40) for the first three days.  If jury duty lasts longer than three days then NY state starts paying the $40/day.  California --well you know check the law for the time if you have employees in California.  

9.  Will all of your employees (seasonal?, temporary?, part time?) be eligible for jury duty leave?

10.  Do you want to set the expectation that employees are to work during normal work hours whenever the court is not in session or when their prescence in court is not required?  This puts the employee on notice that if they only spend a couple hours in the morning  of a regular work day that they should expect to return to work. You may have in your policy something like this:  "Upon completing jury duty, the employee shall report to work at the beginning of the next scheduled work period. If jury duty does not require the full work period, the employee shall report to work upon completing jury duty for that day, with travel time consideration."

Federal jurors are paid $40 for the day.  The pay goes to $50/day after serving 10 days on a trial. Federal employees are paid their regular salary in lieu of the the daily payment. Employers can not fire, intimidate or coerce employees due to their federal jury service.  

There is no State Law in Florida that requires employers to pay employee- jurors while they are serving on jury duty.  However, there may be some County ordinances. ( I think Broward has one.)  Florida law requires jurors in capital cases be sequestered during deliberations. But nothing mandates that a jury be sequestered during the entire trial. That is up to the judge.  And in Anthony's case, Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry has decided the jurors will be sequestered.  The flow of information in years past could be stopped by removing tvs, radios and newspapers.  Today's flow of information is greater in volume and variety of tools.  So don't think that a sequestered juror could be working on his/her laptop every night! 

In Florida, jurors are entitled to $15 per day payment from the State if the employer does not pay, juror is not employed, is self employed or retired.  If selected for a trial that is longer than 3 days, the juror will be paid $30 per day for the 4th day and for each day thereafter, regardless of the employer’s compensation policy. Do you need help putting a policy together?  Pull some answers together for these questions and I will be happy to put the policy together for you!  Hope this helps you.  Just remember to write the policy to be fair for all; be sure your expectations are known.  Precedents may have been set that you don't even know are in place. Help your supervisors!  Have a policy.  Policies provide guidance.

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