A Texas employer was arrested after firing a worker who insisted on honoring her civic duty of responding to a call for jury duty. Ms. Sutton, an executive assistant at a Dallas based computer company Affiliated Computer Services, claims she reminded her boss about the jury duty summons several times in advance. Her boss’s response was to give her a reprimand and an additional work assignment, which she came to work early to finish on the morning her jury duty, was to begin. Her boss then demanded that she stay to finish the task. Ms. Sutton told her boss that she needed to leave for jury duty, he responded by telling her to pack up her stuff and she was fired. Ms. Sutton told the judge in her assigned case who issued a warrant for the boss’s arrest and ordered Dallas deputies to bring him in at once. This particular case ended in an undisclosed settlement amount.
However, the case raises an interesting question, which was posed to me during my volunteer legal work recently: in Colorado, can a person be fired for attending jury duty? In that gentleman’s case, he was selected for a jury and ended up missing a week of work due to the trial. When he returned, his boss fired him and refused to pay him for the week when he was serving on the jury.
Some employers doggedly resist the idea of allowing employees to take time off for jury duty, and apply subtle pressure on them to try to get out of serving. In Colorado, the employer may not make any demand on an employee which will interfere with effective performance of jury duty. The relevant statute states that an employer shall not deprive an employed juror of employment or any incidents or benefits thereof, nor shall an employer harass, threaten or coerce an employee because the employee receives a juror summons, responds thereto, performs any obligation or election of juror service as a trial or grand juror, or exercises any right under any section of this article. Further, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $250-$1,000.00 and 3-12 months imprisonment or both for firing an employee for attending jury duty. The employer may also be liable to the employee for triple damages and attorneys’ fees if the court finds the failure to pay and or termination was willful misconduct by the employer. The employer may still require the employee to provide a Juror Service Certificate which identifies the number of days an employee appeared for jury duty.
Under a federal law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers are not required to pay employees for jury duty service. Consequently, unless provided by state law or company policy, an employer does not have to pay an employee for serving on a jury. Under Colorado law, all employees including part-time and temporary who were scheduled to work for the three (3) months preceding jury service must be paid regular wages up to fifty dollars ($5) for the first three (3) days of jury duty. The employer must pay those monies within thirty (30) days of jury service.
If you have a question about a termination or adverse employment action based on absences due to jury duty contact us at www.BryanKuhnLaw.com/ to discuss your legal rights.