DEAR CARRIE: My sister received a summons for jury duty. She informed all the necessary people in her company ahead of time. After spending most of the day in the courthouse, she was not selected to serve. So she returned to work the next day. After she turned in her employer’s in-house forms for jury duty, payroll told her that the papers state that because she was not selected, the time she spent at the courthouse “does not constitute credit for jury service,” as far as the company is concerned, and she wouldn’t be paid her full wage for the day. She was also told that the same thing happened to other employees, and they used their accrued paid-time off to get their full pay. My sister contends that since she was required to show up at court, the day she missed should be considered jury duty, and the company should pay her. What’s the law on this? — What’s the Verdict?
DEAR WHAT’S: Your question touches upon two key aspects of jury duty: What “jury duty” consists of and what those who serve are paid for their service.
In a similar question for this column a few years ago, a state jury official made it clear that everyone who appears for jury service and is ready to serve is entitled to be paid for their services, and that includes those not selected for a trial.
Employers with more than 10 employees are required to pay employees at least the $40 daily state jury fee for the first three days of jury service, if the companies don’t pay employees wages exceeding that amount. After that the state pays, if necessary. For employers with 10 employees or fewer, the state pays the fee if the smaller companies don’t pay workers during jury duty.
So your sister is entitled to at least the $40 a day.
Her company seems to be saying that if she wants to get paid her full wages for the day she has to use paid-time off, such as a vacation day. That is legal if she is an hourly employee. If she has no paid-time off left, by law she would only have to earn the $40-a-day state fee.
If she is an exempt employee (as in exempt from overtime), she could also be required to use her paid-time off to cover the missed day. But if she has no paid-time off remaining, and has worked any part of the week, she would have to be paid her full salary for that week.
Of course, employers can always feel free to give employees more than the law requires. (And many companies do.)
“Employers are encouraged but not required to pay an employee’s full daily wage while the employee is serving as a juror,” the state’s Trial Juror’s Handbook says.
DEAR CARRIE: My wife worked eight months for a company as a freelancer and was paid an hourly rate. She frequently worked more than 40 hours a week but was always paid straight-time only. Even though she worked as a freelancer, didn’t the employer have to pay her overtime? — Free From OT?
DEAR FREE: If she is truly a freelancer, or independent contractor, she isn’t covered by labor laws, and employers who contract her don’t have to pay her overtime. As for the previous employer, and any others, she needs to determine if she was truly being treated as a freelancer or if the nature of the work relationship meant she was really an employee. Hourly employees must be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. Have her call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890 or 212-264-8185.
Go to bit.ly/LIjurors for more information on jury duty in New York.