Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do you know? Ohio’s jury duty rules for employers

Do you know? Ohio has specific rules that govern how employers handle employees who are summoned for jury duty – Ohio Revised Code 2313.18.

Rule number 1 is simple. It is illegal for an employer to discharge, threaten to discharge, or take any disciplinary action that could lead to the discharge of any permanent employee summoned to serve as a juror, provided that the employee gives reasonable notice to the employer of the summons prior to the commencement of the employee’s service as a juror and if the employee is absent from employment because of the actual jury service.

Rule number 2, though, is counter-intuitive. It is illegal for an employer to require or even request an employee to use vacation time, or sick leave, or other paid time off for time spent responding to a jury duty summons, time spent participating in the jury selection process, or time spent actually serving on a jury.

Rule number 3 provides some relief for small businesses. If a company with 25 or fewer full-time employees (or their equivalent) has more than one employee summoned for jury duty within the same court term, the court must postpone and reschedule the service of the later-summoned employees.

Companies should take these rules seriously. Violations can be punished as contempt of court, and employees terminated in violation of this statute could pursue a wrongful discharge claim.