Is it really a Jury of your Peers?

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Many people consider jury duty an inconvenience and do everything possible to get excused, sometimes with their supervisor claiming that the employee’s absence would cause undue hardship for the company.

However, business owners should encourage employees and others to fulfill their civic duty to provide a fair and impartial “jury of their peers” so that, should the company be sued for discrimination or harassment, a qualified jury will be available to consider the charges. If the only people who serve as jurors are those who can’t provide a valid reason to get excused, the jury system doesn’t work the way it was intended.

Who is legally qualified to serve as a juror?

A prospective juror must be:

  • a citizen of the United States;
  • a resident of the county/parish in which summoned, for a least one year;
  • at least 18 years old;
  • able to read, write, and speak the English language;
  • not deemed incompetent due to medical or physical infirmity; and
  • not under indictment for a felony, nor convicted of a felony for which a pardon has not been granted.

In Louisiana, since 1994, everyone who is qualified must serve as a juror when summoned unless the service would result in “undue hardship or extreme inconvenience.” People may ask to be excused from jury service if they are age 70 years or older or if they have served on a jury during the past two years.

Failure to appear when summoned for jury duty is illegal and may result in legal repercussions including fines.

Are jurors paid for their services?

Under federal law, employers must give their employees the time off to fulfill their jury duty obligations. However, only eight states require employers to pay their employees while serving on a jury. Fifteen states prohibit employers from requiring their employees to use paid leave to cover their jury duty obligations.

In Louisiana employers are required to pay employees their regular wages for up to 8 hours of jury duty service annually when it falls on a day that the employee was scheduled to work. This includes time spent in the jury pool while waiting to be selected for a jury or released from service.

Jurors and potential jurors are paid a small stipend by the Court to offset travel and parking costs. Most employers opt not to require an employee to sign over this stipend, even though they are being paid by the company at the same time, because it is such a small amount.

What can business owners learn from jury duty service?

By serving as jurors, business owners, managers and supervisors can learn first-hand the importance of good evidence to winning a court case. In employment lawsuits, good performance documentation is the evidence that supports non-discriminatory reasons for employment decisions such as terminations. Without good performance documentation, the company is more likely to lose any employee-related litigation, whether the lawsuit is for harassment, discrimination or wrongful discharge.

An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs.

From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.

For more information about our accounting and human resource services, contact Next Level Solutions at info@nextlevelsol.net