Are California Employers Required to Pay You for Jury Duty?

Jury duty is an obligation that many adults have to participate in. It is illegal to not report for jury duty without providing an acceptable excuse based on state guidelines. However, participating in jury duty can be a financial hardship for many people. If an employer refuses to pay an employee for time taken to participate in jury duty, the employee may wonder if he or she is acting within legal guidelines.

Can Employers Keep Employees From Jury Duty?

Retaliation laws prohibit employers from threatening or intimidating employees from participating in jury duty. Laws vary from state to state, but in California, employers cannot engage in any of the following practices in regards to jury duty:

  • Threaten to take away health benefits for participating in jury duty
  • Threaten to fire an employee for participating in jury duty
  • Threaten to dock the pay of an employee for participating in jury duty
  • Demote an employee’s position due to jury duty
  • Take any retaliatory action against an employee for participating in jury duty

Some states require employees to return to work immediately following jury duty or present proof of summons to request time off. In many states, employees only need to provide reasonable notice of their summons and request time off beforehand.

California-Specific Jury Duty Leave Laws

California employers do not have to pay employees for any lost wages due to jury duty summons. However, employees can use any vacation hours, sick leave, or any other personal time off to respond to jury summons. Employees can only use these hours if they are available at the time of jury duty.

In addition, employers cannot penalize, fire, or dock the pay of an employee who participates in jury duty. The only exception to this rule is if the employee does not give reasonable notice to the employer beforehand. Since courts usually send out jury duty summons in advance of the court date, employees should have ample time to inform their employer.

Jury duty leave also extends to employees who must serve as a witness in a trial. All employees in California are eligible for jury duty leave. California employers have the right to request that the employee provide proof of jury duty summons in order to confirm the leave. The employee can provide the original summons, a notice from the court, or an original subpoena.

Employer Penalties for Violating Jury Duty Statutes

Employers can face serious penalties if they threaten an employee for taking time off for jury duty. Consequences vary from state to state and can range from fines to imprisonment. Under California labor law, the employer can face a misdemeanor charge and criminal prosecution. The employer will have to provide the employee with reinstatement, benefits, back pay, and lost wages if charged with a misdemeanor.

Legal Options for Jury Leave Violations

If an employer wrongfully retaliates against an employee for taking time off for jury duty, he or she has two options for legal action. The employee can file a lawsuit against the employer or file a complaint with the California Department of Industrial Relations.

To file a complaint with the state, an employee can submit a report online or through the mail. The employee should gather the following information before beginning the complaint process:

  • An original copy of the jury notice or court correspondence
  • Pay stubs and time sheets that document a change in employment conditions following the jury duty leave
  • Personnel evaluations and disciplinary records
  • Personal notes or correspondence with your employer

Employees can also choose to file a lawsuit with the assistance of a California employment attorney. Employees can seek economic and non-economic damages from their employers for retaliation, including:

  • Lost wages due to demotion, promotion denial, or raise denial
  • Emotional distress due to mistreatment
  • Physical pain due to retaliation
  • Increased anxiety in the workplace
  • Loss of enjoyment of work
  • Damages to professional reputation

If an employee believes that his or her employer violated California jury duty laws, he or she should contact a Los Angeles employment attorney as soon as possible.