DEAR CARRIE: I am unemployed and have been called for jury duty. I have several questions: Will the jury duty payments reduce my unemployment benefits or cancel them? I get the maximum of $450 a week. Also, do I need to report the income to the unemployment benefits office? — Serving Up Questions
DEAR SERVING: You can rest easy on both counts. Your benefit will not be cut, or reduced, nor do you have to report the jury duty payments to the state Labor Department, according to Lucian Chalfen, director of public information for the state Unified Court System.
"We do not transfer any financial information to the Department of Labor," he said. And "you do not have to report jury duty as a work activity."
Since you are unemployed, the state will pay you the $40 daily fee on the days that you are sitting in the jury pool or serving on a case.
"We do pay the per diem for jurors who serve while collecting unemployment benefits," Chalfen said.'
If you were employed at a company with more than 10 employees, your employer would have to pay you that per diem for the first three days, if it doesn't pay you wages exceeding that amount. After those three days,the state would pay, unless your company pays you wages exceeding the daily amount paid to jurors. The state pays the fee from the beginning to employees of smaller companies if those employers don't pay workers while they are on jury duty.
DEAR CARRIE: I work at an upscale shopping center. During certain times of the year, the center enforces mandatory off-site parking for employees. We are required to park at a location farther down the road, and shuttle bus service is provided to and from the shopping center. This restriction is currently being enforced Thursday through Sunday for September and October. A new parking schedule for November and December will soon take effect. We also had parking rules for May and June. I completely understand leaving the closest parking spots for shoppers, but I believe there is ample parking for both shoppers and employees year-round. I have two questions. First, is this legal? Second, if I am compelled to follow these parking restrictions, am I entitled to be paid for the extended commuting time? Since the parking is so far away, it takes the shuttle bus 15 minutes to get to the off-site parking lot and 15 minutes to return. That's a half hour extra a day and 2 1/2 hours over the week. I am an hourly full-time employee. — Parking Violation?
DEAR PARKING: As onerous as the restrictions are, they are probably legal. First of all the company doesn't have to provide parking to employees at all, lawyers who have answered similar questions in this column have said. So even though the parking is inconvenient, the company is going beyond what is required in providing it. As far as extra payment for your longer commute is concerned, your employer doesn't have to pay to you an extra amount. That's because that additional time is still considered part of your commute. And commuting time isn't considered on-the-clock time.
Even though your employer's actions are likely legal, that doesn't mean they make the most sense for employees. So maybe a group of you can document how some places closest to the shopping center usually go unused and ask that employees be allowed to use those. A sensible company policy always has some wiggle room.
Go to bit.ly/LIjury for more on unemployed workers and jury duty.