Many people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are hesitant to serve on juries because of the potential loss of pay. However, jury service is crucial for the democratic and judicial processes in the U.S. Without juries, the legal system would falter. Employers and employees both must make sacrifices when workers are selected for jury service. If you are concerned about your employer’s potential retaliation against you for serving on a jury, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler can explain your rights.
Are employees protected when they serve on juries in New Jersey?
Many people are worried that their employers might penalize them if they serve on juries. However, New Jersey prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for performing jury duty under N.J.S.A. §2B:20-17. This statute prohibits employers from penalizing, coercing, or threatening employees who are called for jury service. Employees whose employers violate this law are granted a private cause of action through which they can file lawsuits against their employers for damages.
If an employer violates the jury duty law, you may be entitled to recover damages, attorney’s fees, and reinstatement to your position. The damages might include back pay for work that you have missed because of your employer’s retaliation.
Compensation for jury duty
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are not required to compensate employees for service on juries. Under N.J.S.A. §2B:20-16, public employees must receive their normal compensation for each day that they serve on juries. However, employers in the private sector are not required to pay the regular rate of pay to employees who are forced to miss work for jury duty. Under N.J.S.A. §22A:1-1.1, people who serve on petit or grand juries are to be compensated at a rate of $5 per day. People who serve on petit juries are also entitled to an additional $35 per day of compensation.
While the compensation for jury service is very minimal, many employers choose to pay their employees when they are called to serve on juries. Check with your employer to learn about your company’s policies about compensation when you are called for jury duty.
If your employer tells you that you will not be paid for the time that you spend serving on a jury, you can request to be excused from jury duty if it will cause you to suffer serious financial hardship. You will need to show the judge how your jury service would make it hard for you to support your family. You might be asked to submit documents showing that the hardship would be suffered and to talk about it with the trial judge.
Will serving on a jury harm your ability to receive unemployment compensation?
If you are unemployed and are currently receiving unemployment benefits, serving on a jury will not harm your eligibility for benefits. If you have a job interview scheduled at the same time as your jury service, you can contact the court to ask for your service to be rescheduled.
Jury service in Pennsylvania
People in Pennsylvania who are called for jury duty are also protected from retaliation. Employers are prohibited from coercing or threatening employees because they have been called to serve on juries. They also cannot retaliate against workers who serve on juries because of their service.
Employers are required to allow employees to take time off from work to perform jury duty. However, there are a few exceptions. Employers in the retail and service industry that have less than 15 employees are exempted from the law. Employers in the manufacturing industry with less than 40 workers are also exempted. Workers whose employers fall into these exemptions must be automatically excused by the court from jury duty.
Like New Jersey, Pennsylvania law does not require most employers to compensate employees when they are serving jury duty. However, an exception applies to exempt workers. Employers cannot dock the pay of exempt, salaried workers for the time that they spend performing jury service unless the employee was absent for the entire week.
Serving on a jury in New Jersey or Pennsylvania is among the most important civic duties that people have. If you are called to perform jury service, you are legally obligated to report for the jury selection process. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for serving on a jury. While your employer may not be required to pay you for the days that you are absent for jury service, many employers still do. Contact the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to learn more about your rights and responsibilities for jury duty by filling out our contact form or calling us at 856.685.7420.