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Ohio Law Addresses Jury Duty and Employment

Serving as a juror is indeed a “civic duty,” and the Ohio legislature has enacted serious penalties for those who disregard a jury duty summons. But what happens when this obligation conflicts with an individual’s employment? Although Ohio law provides certain protections for jurors’ employment, employees and employers alike may need to make sacrifices. 

Q: Are employees allowed to take time off work for jury duty?
A: 
An Ohio statute prohibits employers from terminating or threatening to terminate any permanent employee who misses work because he or she is summoned to jury duty in state court. Disciplinary action that might lead to termination is also prohibited. Federal law contains similar protections for permanent employees who serve as jurors in the federal court system. Neither law defines what it means to be a “permanent” employee, however. 

Q: Are all absences because of jury duty protected?
A: 
Not automatically. Under the Ohio statute, employees must give reasonable advance notice to their employers after receiving a jury duty summons. This provision is intended to give employers time to make arrangements for the employee’s absence. 

Q: Do employers have to pay employees for the time they spend on a jury?
A: 
For private employers, the answer is no. Neither the Ohio statute nor the federal statute requires employers to compensate employees for time related to jury duty. Some private employers choose to pay their employees for this time, but this is strictly voluntary. As for public-sector employers in Ohio, the law does require them, in some circumstances, to pay employees who are away from work to serve on a jury.

Q: Can an employer require its employees to use vacation time or sick leave for jury service?
A:
 No. The Ohio statute explicitly prohibits employers from requiring employees to use vacation days or sick leave for time spent responding to a jury duty summons or serving on a jury. Employers are not even allowed to ask that employees use their paid time off, according to the statute. Employees do have the option of using vacation days or paid time off if their employer provides those benefits, but this must be done voluntarily.

Q: If paid leave is not available, will employees receive any compensation for their time on a jury?
A:
 Courts pay jurors for their time, but the amounts are usually very small. For example, jurors in Franklin County (Columbus) receive just $20 per day. 

Q: Is there a hardship exception for employees who cannot afford to be away from work?
A:
 Ohio law allows courts to excuse an individual if jury service would cause “extreme physical or financial hardship,” but the law specifically states that this kind of hardship requires something more than just having to miss work. Specifically, the individual must show a “substantial adverse impact” on his or her ability to pay necessary living expenses.

10/30/2013

This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Justin D. Flamm, an attorney practicing labor and employment law in the Cincinnati office of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. 

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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