Gavel to Gavel: Jury fun never stops

The Journal Record
By Adam Childers
Jan. 12, 2012

Picking a jury is one of my favorite parts of a trial. Months, and sometimes years, of litigation hang in the balance as the dueling trial attorneys carefully select the jurors who will decide the ultimate victors and losers. However, I can’t help but notice that the prospective jurors don’t seem to relish the moment as much.

The reason would seem to be that while jury duty is one of our most valuable civic duties, it’s still kind of a pain. What, sitting through a three-week trial, dining on cafeteria food, disrupting your normal professional and personal schedules, making difficult decisions with a room full of strangers in exchange for a paltry juror’s fee and a pat on the back doesn’t sound appealing? An employee’s time spent away from work for jury service can also be a major inconvenience for employers, especially smaller companies where the extended absence of a key employee can be a major blow. That is why it can be tempting for an employer to encourage employees to find a way to get out of jury service. Or, even worse, to discipline an employee for being absent from work in response to a federal or state court’s directive to appear for jury duty

Oklahoma employers would be wise to resist such urges, as the Oklahoma Legislature specifically forbids such conduct. According to 38 O.S. Section 34, an employee that provides his or her employer with notice of a jury summons within a reasonable period of time after receiving it cannot be the subject of any adverse employment actions, including termination, as a result of that jury service. Moreover, although the employer does not have to pay the employee during their time away from work, the employer also cannot require the employee to use his or her annual vacation or sick leave to cover the time spent out of the office for jury service. Failure to abide by the statute carries with it civil and criminal penalties for the offending party.

Who knows if one of your employees will be on the next jury I pick. If they are, recognize your civic service and give them the time off they deserve.

Adam W. Childers is a director with Crowe & Dunlevy’s Labor and Employment Section in Oklahoma City. He can be reached at (405) 235-7741 or by e-mail at adam.childers@crowedunlevy.com.

http://journalrecord.com/2012/01/11/gavel-to-gavel-jury-fun-never-stops-opinion/

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