Employers: The Law and Your Duty
Your help is essential!
For our jury system to work, it is essential that the courts and employers form a partnership to ensure that all citizens are available to serve on juries when called. Without cooperation from the business community, our system would come to a halt. This is an outcome a democratic society cannot afford. We would lose a fundamental principle upon which we, private and corporate citizens alike, depend. The importance of your participation cannot be emphasized enough.
The jury system works for business too.
Businesses frequently benefit directly from our legal system. The civil litigation system in particular is filled with a variety of business-related disputes. These include actions concerning contracts, wrongful termination, product defects, environmental issues, malpractice, and intellectual fraud. While employers have valid concerns about how jury service affects their employees and resources, it is important that they understand the length of time employees may need to be absent. It is rare that someone will be required to be present at the court facility for more than a week, although a few trials do last longer.
Employers can do their fair share.
Employers and businesses are encouraged to support the jury system by paying employees while they are serving as jurors. In order for society to benefit from fair and open trials, we need to make it easier for citizens to report for jury service. Many citizens cannot afford to serve if they will lose their salaries or wages during jury service. In recent years, far too many jurors have asked to be excused from service because the loss of income they would suffer creates a financial hardship. On the other hand, when the number of jurors claiming financial hardship decreases, a much broader cross-section of society will be free to serve. This will create juries that are truly representative and reflective of our society. By agreeing to compensate employees during jury service, not only will employers continue to enjoy the benefits of the jury system, but they will also contribute toward its improvement.
Payment is voluntary, not mandatory.
State law does not currently require employers to continue paying the salary of employees who are absent because of jury service. Many employers, however, including state, federal, and many local governmental agencies, have a policy of compensating employees for at least part, if not all, of the time spent for jury service. If employers do pay, they have the right to require employees to remit to them the fees received for jury service.
Employees are protected from harassment or dismissal.
As the employer, you must allow an employee time off to serve on a jury. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 2.36.165) prohibits any employer from firing or harassing an employee who is summoned to court to serve as a juror. An employer who intentionally violates this statute could be found guilty of a misdemeanor. In addition, an employee is entitled to bring a civil action for damages as a result of the violation and for an order requiring reinstatement.