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Random Thought for Friday, March 6, 2015: An Elephant in the Room

DSCN2889Welcome to Friday’s Random Thought.

 Jury duty.  I have been “on call” for jury duty these past two weeks.  I know, many people in the USA dread being called for Jury duty. If you are a citizen of this country, you are required to report for jury duty.  It is an obligation of every citizen to report and possibly to sit on a jury.

In the USA, if you are charged with a crime, you have the right to be judged by a “jury of your peers” should you exercise that right.  Now many people will argue that a “peers” means people of a similar background, gender, race, etc…  In essence, the language is not literal, it means a jury of citizens (details).

So we are to provide and fulfill a very necessary role in the judicial process for anyone who has been charged with a crime and brought to trial.  It is a vital role that we must fulfill and yet, it is something that many people dread.

Why do people dread this required and necessary call to service?

There are many reasons.  It takes up time out of your day.  You could potentially be on a sequestered jury and end up spending days or weeks separated from your family and loved ones.

One of the major factors however needs to be addressed.  What is this problem, this deterrent to people showing up when they are called?

In a word, wages.

Yes, many jurisdictions will pay you a daily stipend for sitting in a jury pool or when you are actually called in for jury duty.  Some even pay mileage between your home and the court.  The problem lay in that what most of us make in way of pay and what we receive from jury service is drastically less than what we receive from our work pay.

There is no law that requires your employer to pay you for time off for jury service.  Some companies will allow you to use up vacation time but for the many of us who do not have paid time off from work, what are you to do?  You end up taking an hit to your finances and no, there isn’t a single person who accepts that this is “a sacrifice that is necessary” routine.

Serving on a jury could actually lead to some people becoming homeless and starving.  It sounds very dramatic but for those who are stuck in minimum wage jobs trying to house and feed a family, this is a stark reality and it simply will not do.

People who are in the situation of being severely impacted from being on a jury are more likely to not do a good job so that they can get out of jury duty quicker, if they actually show up at all.  I wonder how many rulings by jury’s have been compromised by people simply doing a quick and dirty job so that they could get back to work and not end up homeless.  Unfortunately, it is a very easy thing to accept as a truth without even looking the statistics.  We all can believe this to be a reality.

So, how do we fix this?  We do what was done years ago and protect those who are serving in a jury.

You see, there was a time that an employer could fire you for not showing up to work if you were out for jury duty.  That is no longer the case, you can not loose your job if you are called for jury duty as long as you provide proof to your employer that you have been called.  Your employment is protected under law for so long as you provide a copy of your jury summons to your employer and the letter from that jurisdiction that shows when you have been released from jury duty.

What would help people even more is to require that you continue to receive your pay when you are called for jury duty, regardless if you are eligible for paid time off from work. Employers should be required by law to pay those wages and in return and employers should be allowed to declare that pay and benefits for the affected pay periods as a “double loss”.

Double loss is just that, double the amount.  Let’s say that Joe Smith here has a total payout by his employer of $1000 each week.  That $1000 includes his pay, payroll taxes that the business must pay to taxing authorities, health insurance and any other benefits. Employers would be able to claim $2000 in losses for that week Joe Smith was called for jury duty.

This would do many things.  Firstly, it would remove the economic impact the said employee for reporting for jury service, a major factor in potential jurors in not reporting. Second, it would provide additional incentive to business to ensure and assist jurisdictions that when an employee is called for jury service they actually report. Businesses would be more likely to support their local jurisdiction’s need for jurors if they could recoup some of the losses that they would also have to shoulder from that employee not being at work.

I know, I know, this is a very liberal and/or progressive concept that many conservatives may not like but I honestly believe that it is something necessary.  We need to ensure that jury’s are staffed with jurors and those jurors have no distractions to successfully and correctly completing their service.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Published inFriday's Random Thought

2 Comments

    • Riley Riley

      It’s no worries. I was lucky this time around, I didn’t get called in.

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