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Author: Maria Greco Danaher, Ogletree Deakins
- Employment in the US generally is at-will, meaning either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all. Terminations for discriminatory reasons or for reasons that contravene any public policy, however, are illegal. See Public Policy Exception to At-Will Doctrine.
- The Jury System Improvements Act was enacted in 1978 to ensure that federal courts would have adequate juror participation. Many states have equivalent or similar statutes that serve a similar purpose. Those statutes prohibit employers from taking adverse action against an employee whose absence from work is due to jury service obligations. Termination of an employee for absence due to jury duty can form the basis of a public policy discharge claim by an at-will employee. See Public Policy Exception to At-Will Doctrine; State Requirements.
- Employers may not discipline employees who properly take time off for jury duty, and cannot limit the amount of time spent on jury duty. See Employers Obligated to Provide Leave; Duration of Leave.
- There is no federal statute that protects employees of private employers who are asked to testify as a witness at a trial or hearing. However, if an employee is called by subpoena to testify, an employer's obstruction of that testimony could violate public policy and/or state law. See When Serving as a Witness for the Employer.
- Employers should adopt written policies regarding absence due to jury duty and court-related leave in order to outline both the employer's responsibilities and employees' obligations related to such absences. See Employee Notice - Process for Requesting Leave; Jury Duty Leave Policies.
- Employers should refrain from penalizing employees for absences associated with jury duty by docking pay, unless and until a full review of the situation has been conducted, in order to avoid violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. See Compensation During Leave.
The following states have additional requirements for this topic under applicable state law.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia