While most of us are happy to take time off to perform our civic duties, doing so while maintaining a full time job can be difficult. Oftentimes, employers can be extremely reluctant to let employees miss work, and will often try to exert pressure on you not to take time off for voting and jury duty. Issues of unpaid leave and possible retribution can make the call to perform your civic duties even more difficult to answer. Fortunately, most states realize the dilemma faced by employers and employees, and do their best to take the decision out of your hands.
Your Right to Time Off for Voting
Almost all states have outright prohibitions on employers' disciplining or firing you for taking time off of work to go vote. If you have been disciplined or fired for taking time off to vote, contact a lawyer to find out whether this violates your state's laws.
Keep in mind, however, that many states require you to do certain things before being granted time off to vote. Some states grant you time off only if you can demonstrate that you don't have enough time to get to the polls before or after work. Other states require you to demonstrate to you actually voted. Still other states require that you give your employer advanced notice that you will be taking time off to vote. Check your states laws to see if any of these conditions apply to you.
Finally, many employers have employment handbooks or company policies that set forth how your employer deals with taking time off for voting. Most states don't require that your employer pay you for your time off, but check with your company to see if they do.
Your Right to Time Off for Jury Duty
Getting time off for jury duty is typically much harder than getting time off for voting. While few employers will pressure you about taking time off for voting, many employers are extremely reluctant to have their employee sit on a jury for a week or longer. State laws notwithstanding, employers will often exert pressure on employees to get out of jury duty.
Recognizing the reluctance of employers, most states not only prohibit employers from firing or disciplining employees who take time off to serve on a jury, but also prohibit employers from discouraging or intimidating employees from serving on a jury. If your employer is pressuring you, the best thing to do is to point your employer towards the relevant state law on the issue in a non-confrontational way.
Keep in mind that many states have additional requirements and protections in place, so always check your state's laws and talk to your employer before serving on a jury. For instance, some states require that you furnish proof of being called for jury duty to your employer before taking any time off. Other states have protections in place for specific workers, such as night shift workers, who are granted time off from their night shift if they are serving on a jury during the day.
Finally, the biggest issue for employees is that such time off is typically unpaid. Juries are often paid for their services, but usually at a ridiculously low rate. Unfortunately, most states don't require that your employer give you paid time off, but always check your state's laws because some do. As a compromise, several states also allow you to use accrued paid leave while you serve on a jury, although the idea of using this time to serve on a jury can be difficult to swallow for the employee.
Denied Time Off for Voting or Jury Duty? Get a Legal Evaluation
The right to vote and sit on a jury are two cornerstones of living in a democracy. That is why laws are in place in many states to ensure that employers do not abridge these fundamental rights. If your employer has denied your ability to participate in an election or serve on a jury, you may need to explore your legal options. Get a head start today with a free initial legal evaluation by a local employment law attorney specializing in wage and hour matters.