What Is Jury Duty? Learn About Leave, Pay, and More

Jury in court

moodboard/Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

Jury duty occurs when a U.S. citizen receives a summons from a Federal or state court to appear on a particular day and time to potentially serve on a jury.

When a prospective juror arrives at their assigned court, the first task is to fill out a questionnaire and participate in the jury selection process. In some municipalities, the potential juror can call the court the night before he or she has been asked to report for jury duty. At that time the juror may be informed that services are not needed for that day.

State laws address jury duty, and these law differ between states. Check with your state's labor department to ascertain the laws that govern jury duty in your particular state. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a listing of state labor offices where you can find this information.

An employee who has been called for jury duty is either picked to serve on a jury or dismissed. If dismissed reasonably early in the day, an employee may be expected to work for the remainder of the day. On the other hand, the employee can be selected to serve on a jury that goes on for months and can be sequestered. An employer’s jury duty policy needs to take all of these factors into consideration.

Time Off for Jury Duty

Jury duty availability is mandated by law. Thus, employers in almost every state are required by law to provide an employee with time off from work in order to perform their civic duty.

If the summons to jury duty occurs at a time of the year when the employer would experience a significant impact from the loss of the employee, the employer may write a letter to the court. The court will consider the employer and employee's request for postponed jury duty on a case-by-case basis.

Some states favor the employee and do not allow an employer to subtract any jury duty time from an employee's paycheck. Requirements also vary based on whether an employee works for the state, Federal or local government or for the private sector.

The following states prohibit employers from requiring employees to use their leave—vacation, sick, or personal time—for jury duty: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

Additionally, Federal law prohibits employers from taking adverse actions such as employment termination against an employee who is required to report for jury duty. Adverse actions include harassment, threatening, or attempting to coerce the employee regarding jury duty. Also, an employee must be allowed to report back to work following their jury duty.

Paid Jury Duty Leave

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked by an employee, including reporting for Federal jury duty. This type of paid leave benefit is usually a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee or the employer and the employee’s union representative.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), of employees who work in state government, 92 percent receive paid jury duty leave. Of employees who work in local government employment, 88 percent receive paid jury duty leave. Federal employees receive their regular salary while they perform jury duty.

In the private sector, 68 percent of employees receive paid jury duty leave. The percentage of workers who receive paid jury duty leave varies widely and is based on the job title, job level or classification, type of work, industry, and national location.

The majority of states leave an employer's jury duty policy up to the employer. However, eight states require employers to pay their employees while serving jury duty: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee.

Some states specify what the employer must pay an employee, which is usually the same as the jury duty pay for a certain amount of days at the beginning of the process. After that, for additional days of jury duty, the state court system pays the employee the going rate for jury duty. Other states specify that the employee must be paid their regular pay while reporting for jury duty.