Many of us dread jury duty — it usually entails days of sitting and waiting around. But in addition to being boring, it can also cause financial strain, depending on your individual circumstances.
Here’s a look at the potential costs of jury duty.
Your Juror Pay May Not Make Up for Missed Work Pay
Whether or not being a juror will cause financial strain depends on where you are serving your jury duty, whether or not you have a salaried position and how much you normally make. Where you are serving and whether you are serving on a federal or local trial will determine how much you will get paid for your time.
“Federal jurors are given $40 a day for shorter trials and $50 for longer ones,” said Lyle David Solomon, principal attorney at Oak View Law Group. “However, not all courts are so generous. Beginning the second day of jury service, Los Angeles County jurors receive only $15 per day and 34 cents per mile one way. (This is the amount that the State Legislature has imposed.)”
Even if you earn the federal court’s juror pay, this may not be enough to make up for lost wages.
“If you work full time for the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) and volunteer for five days on a federal trial, your weekly budget will be $90 short,” Solomon said. “If you’re paid $15 hourly, you’ll be $400 short. And getting paid for jury duty can take weeks.”
“While some firms keep paying their employees when they are on jury duty, this is not required by law,” he continued. “As a result, the individual may face financial hardship. Before working for jury service, be sure you know your employer’s policy.”
If you are a full-time, salaried employee and your employer does not pay you for your time served on jury duty, you can request that the court reimburse you for your missed earnings.
“Your employer is required to complete a certificate of lost earnings, which is included with the letter certifying your jury service,” Solomon said. “Once you’ve completed jury service, you can submit this as proof of your claim for court expenses within three months. You must fill out the form and present it to the court with all of your necessary receipts and proof of loss of wages. After you file your claim, it will usually be reimbursed immediately into your account seven to 10 working days later.”
Unfortunately, this only applies to salaried workers, so freelance and gig workers may not be able to make up for their lost wages.
“Working as a juror can be a financial burden when you’re not salaried,” Solomon said. “Jurors are often reimbursed for transportation costs and get a stipend, although it is not a living income.”
Consider Asking for a Financial Hardship Exemption
If serving on a jury will cause you financial strain, you may ask for a financial hardship exemption.
“Requesting an exemption can be done in a variety of ways,” Solomon said. “You may need to contact the court clerk before they serve your summons, or you may need to return documents you received with your summons. In some states, you can only request an exemption after you’ve served on a jury or been summoned to a trial.”
If you request a financial hardship exemption, be sure to be clear about how much money you can lose by serving.
“The amount of money you stand to lose may affect your chances of getting an exemption,” Solomon said. “You can strengthen your case by bringing proof of your wages and expenses to the court. The length of the trial to which you’ve been summoned is also a factor.”
However, requesting the exemption isn’t a guarantee you will be granted one.
“Each year, the U.S. State Department estimates that 3 million exemptions are granted for financial or medical reasons,” Solomon said. “But remember, exemptions are granted only at the court’s discretion, and there is no certainty that they will grant you one.”
Some Workers May Want To Request a Postponement
“If the timing of your jury summons creates issues — for example, if you have a freelance assignment due that week — you may request a postponement rather than an exemption, which means you agree to serve on the jury at a later date,” Solomon said.
Once again, whether or not your request is accepted will be up to the court’s discretion.
“You’ll have to appear in court if you don’t qualify for it,” Solomon said. “However, there is still reason to be optimistic. According to State Department records, just about a quarter of those summoned to jury duty are generally required to report. Also, only about a quarter of those who report are seated on a jury for a trial. The average trial lasts five days or fewer, even if you are seated.”
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On the Plus Side, Jury Duty Won’t Cost You Your Job
Although you may lose out on wages during your time serving on a jury, you cannot legally be fired for missing work due to jury duty.
“While your employer is not required to pay you during jury service, the law prohibits them from retaliating against you for taking time off to work as a juror if you have provided your employer sufficient notice that you may be called to serve,” Solomon said. “If your employer takes retaliatory action against you, they could face criminal charges. You can also register a complaint with the Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.”
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