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A new employee just got summoned for jury duty. My company is based in Canada and by law, I am not required to pay their salary while they are away serving on the jury. I'm wondering if anyone else has encountered this and what they decided to do.

Pay the full salary? Pay a portion of the salary? Not pay at all?

We are a small business, and I most likely will need to hire a contractor to cover the loss of the employee while they are away. I'm wondering what the etiquette is for a situation like this.

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can the employee use financial hardship to get excused from jury duty? –  mhoran_psprep Nov 20 '12 at 19:10
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@mhoran_psprep I am pretty sure that it might be illegal for employers to punish or convince employees to lie for mandatory jury duty –  maple_shaft Nov 20 '12 at 19:14
    
For the curious, the legal situation here is pretty much the same in many US states; you can't punish or coerce the employee but you don't have to pay them, you just have to give them the time off. How companies deal with pay varies, but many companies pay the full amount. –  Rarity Nov 20 '12 at 20:02
    
@maple_shaft yeah, it's generally spelled out in state laws that it's Contempt of Court to tell employees to do anything, though the employees themselves can make the claim. –  Rarity Nov 20 '12 at 20:05
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I never said lie. The employer can't or won't pay them. Therefor the employee might starve if assigned to a long trial. The question I wanted to know is "under the laws in your jurisdiction is lack of income a valid reason for being excused from jury duty?" In the US it can be used to get excused from a trial. It can also be claimed that the loss of a key employee would harm a small business. Some judges accept these excuses, others do not. Some judges will only assign them to short trials. Where did I say punish, lie, coerce? –  mhoran_psprep Nov 20 '12 at 22:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 25 down vote accepted

The etiquette for the situation is that you should have an employee manual that clearly defines the company policy towards Jury Duty so that everything is clear and nothing is ambiguous or vague about it.

Because you did not define this in an employee manual then the ethical thing to do IMHO is to pay the full salary since you were negligent to define what happens in this scenario.

Pay their salary, revise the employee manual going forward however you wish, and then you won't have to worry about the ethical issues with this again.

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Exactly. Every job I've had where I wasn't a contractor, they gave me an employee handbook within the first week and it specifically called out things like "you don't get paid your vacation time when you quit" and "you don't get paid if you miss work for jury duty, though you can take PTO if you want". –  Adam V Nov 20 '12 at 18:52
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Totally valid. We do have a handbook, but never considered jury duty. We are a team of 11 so all this comes with growing. I think I'm going to take your advice. Thank you! –  Ryan Nov 20 '12 at 18:55
    
@Ryan Your welcome! –  maple_shaft Nov 20 '12 at 19:04
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What our company does is cash the check for jury duty and we pay the employee as if they showed up normally over the jury duty days (which is a big $10 a day gain for the company, but...). Make sure that's within local laws of course –  Rarity Nov 20 '12 at 19:53
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Here in Texas jury duty pays almost nothing, so it would cost more to deduct it from a paycheck than it would save. I really think that as a citizenship thing companies ought to continue to pay salaries for employees on jury duty, at least for a few weeks. If you are the boss and ever get in a civil or criminal trial you'll hope that other employers do so. Still, this answer is correct. Whatever policy you put in place should be spelled out in your employee manual, and everyone should be treated in accordance with the manual. –  Jim In Texas Nov 20 '12 at 20:26

As has been stated elsewhere, this would be best resolved by having a policy in place to address the issue. Yes, it is understandable that as a new company you've not set policies for every circumstance ... as a recent hire by a small, new company myself, I'm encountering some of the same thing.

Although you may have already formed an opinion about this new person's work it's best to ignore that when formulating the policy. That's because the next person may be the opposite of this one in terms of likeability, performance, etc., but the policy has to treat them equally.

Since you say there's no legal issue, it seems to me that this really comes down to you (and your partners, if any), and your employment market. The biggest questions in my mind would be:

  • What do other organizations who hire workers similar to your employees do? If they provide pay for jury duty, then people will expect to be paid for such. If word gets out that you do not provide jury duty leave, it may make it more difficult for you to hire people.

  • What kind of benefits do you want to provide as an employer? This may be a personal issue (e.g. maybe you want to encourage people to fulfill their civic responsibilities), or a competitive one (making it easier to hire the people you want to employ).

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If you did not offer the pay as benefit of employment so you are not obliged to pay it. Paying it now may even set a precedence you do not want. It is one thing to pay for a week or so it is another if the trial lasts for months. So while you may be willing to pay a week this time what if the next time it is a new employee that is summoned to a 3+ month trial

If the employee is valued and you can afford the expense then paying the employee for the time on jury duty may be worth it to you. But if you are not in a position to pay the employee for work they are not doing, then by paying the employee you might be costing 10 other people their jobs not to mention your business. In the US there is an insurance you can purchase to cover these types of absences. If you are going to pay your employees for jury duty you should consider looking into one of these policies.

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I'm going to point out that the employee still has to eat and make mortgage payments, etc. It would be cruel to cut off their salary during the time they are on jury duty. If you did that to me, I would quit. I would also make sure that all the other people I knew in my profession knew what a crappy company you had so they wouldn't work there either. However, many companies deduct the amount they get paid for jury duty from their salaries so that they get the same amount. Paying for this is just a cost of business and should be factored into your annual budget. Someone pointed out there is inurance available for this sort of thing, if you can find a policy, then definitely buy it. If you want to stay in business though, do not make it impossible for your employees to keep a roof over their heads when they have no choice but to report to the jury duty.

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You can get out of jury duty by claiming hardship in most places. Is it more cruel not to pay someone who is not working or to put 10 other people out of work because you tried to pay but could not afford to carry the dead weight. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Nov 20 '12 at 21:11
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@Chad, If a small company can be put out of business by someone taking up to a few days off for jury duty, they have much bigger problems than a jury duty policy can address. –  Angelo Nov 21 '12 at 2:40
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@Angelo - You would be surprised how close to the edge some businesses run. Yes it is a problem but sometimes there is some value in sacrifice. And a few days is one thing the OJ trial lasted 6 months, even an easy murder trial in the US lasts a month. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Nov 21 '12 at 2:59

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