Civic Duties and Employees' Legal Rights to Time Off
Our democracy depends partly on people voting and sitting on juries. Many people understand the importance of performing civic duties, such as voting or sitting on a jury, but their employers pressure them not to take time off of work or make them fearful of retaliation. Some state laws address this issue. If your employer is pressuring you or threatening you for wanting to take time off to perform a civic duty, you may want to check what your state laws are. Below is a summary with some examples of laws protecting employee rights.
Time Off to Vote
Most states have laws that prohibit employers from terminating or disciplining an employee who takes time off to vote. Twelve states, including Arizona and New York, impose penalties such as large fines on employers that prevent their employees from being able to vote.
However, each state has its own rules and requirements. Some states require you to provide your employer with advance notice. In certain states, you only have time off to vote during the work day if you can show that you do not have sufficient time to vote before or after work. In other states, you will need to show proof of voting. Not many states mandate that employers post a notice about how to take advantage of the right to take time off of work. California is one state that does require posting of a notice.
You should also look at your employment handbook or company policy to determine whether your employer allows time off for voting, even if state law does not require it. Some companies will pay you for your time off, while others will not, so it is important to examine the language of your own handbook.
Time Off for Jury Duty
In many states, employees must give employers advance notice of their intent to take time off to vote.
Juries would not be effective if employees were not available to serve on them. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require that you be paid for time that you did not work, including time that you serve on a jury. However, some state laws require employers to pay employees who are required to serve jury duty.
Even employers that are cooperative with the need to take time off for a few hours to vote may be wary about allowing time off for jury duty because a trial can take a week or even many weeks. An employer may pressure you to try to get out of jury duty. Many state laws prohibit employers from discouraging employees from serving on a jury, and they may also prohibit termination or discipline of employees who have taken time off when called to serve on a jury.
However, each state has its own rules regarding taking time off of work for jury duty. In some states, you may need to prove that you were called for jury duty. There may also be protection if you work on a night shift and had to serve on a jury during the day. It is important to consult your state law or consult an attorney if you are being pressured not to serve on a jury.
Payment During Jury Duty
A minority of states have laws requiring employers to provide paid leave for jury duty, but usually only for a few days.
You may be disheartened to learn that if you take time off to serve on a jury, it may not be paid, depending on the state where you live. There are some states that require employers to provide paid time off to employees who are called to serve on a jury. In Alabama, for example, full-time employees are entitled to their usual wage when serving on a jury, as long as they can show a supervisor the summons. But in most states, employers are not required to give you paid time off. Even if you are compensated by the state for your jury service, it is usually a tiny amount. There are some state laws that permit the use of accrued paid leave while serving on a jury, but many employees do not want to do that because they have saved the time for a longer vacation.