At some point in their tenure with your organization, employees will need leave. Therefore, organizations should establish their own policies for employee leave. These polices should be tailored to the specific needs of their workforce. For example, some companies allow a specific number of days, or hours, which may be taken as paid leave. Another option is to allow employees to take a certain amount of unpaid leave. There are also times when a company (because of federal and state law) must allow an employee to take leave.
The time off from work that is mandated by federal or state law includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Military leave under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Right Act (USERRA) of 1994,
- Leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA),
- Leave to perform jury duty,
- Time off to vote, and
- Leave for an injury covered by Worker’s Compensation.
Allowing workers time off for bereavement is often good for employee relations, but it is not usually a federal or state requirement. If a organization is going to allow bereavement leave there should be a clear policy on how much and in what circumstances.
See the Military leave topic.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
See the FMLA topic.
Employees may be called to join a jury panel and then selected to serve as a juror. This jury duty will usually take an employee away from his or her job duties. However, there is not much that an employer can do to prevent the employee from serving (more on this later). Most employers consider jury duty a community service. Federal and state laws also recognize jury service as a civil obligation. A number of states protect employees from being disciplined for having served as a juror. State laws also often prohibit an employer from threatening or coercing an employee or terminating the employment of a person due to serving or being called to serve as a juror.
When an employee is selected for jury duty they are usually paid a small amount per day from the court for the service. The amount can be as little as $10 per day. Depending on the trial, the employee can be called for one day or can be expected to serve for several weeks. In a number of states, the state law may even require the employer to continue paying an employee during jury duty, even if only for a limited amount of time such as a few days. Check your state laws for obligations.
Since jury duty pay is so low and the duration of service is often unknown, many employers continue to pay employees while serving on juries. Many employers pay the difference between what the employee would have earned while working and what he or she did earn on jury duty. In the absence of a policy, non-exempt employees may take jury leave without pay (unless state law requires wage continuation). Exempt employees cannot be subject to a salary deduction for weeks that include jury duty absences, but full-week absences for jury duty could be unpaid if the employee did not otherwise work that week (again, unless state law requires wage continuation).
Companies often limit the time they will pay an employee while on duty jury (for example, a three-month maximum). Employers may also have the right to ask that workers be excused from jury duty obligations if that employee’s absence would substantially interfere with the efficient operation of the company. The likely response varies with the jurisdiction.
Employers may want to implement procedures for employees to use when taking time off for jury duty. Some of these procedures/requirements could be:
- Setting a requirement that only full-time employees are paid for jury duty.
- Having employees fill out a “jury duty leave of absence request” form and submit it along with a copy of the summons/subpoena.
- Having employees notify their supervisor each day they are scheduled to report for jury duty.
- Having employees submit a statement to their supervisor from the officer of the court confirming each day they report for jury duty.
- Requiring employees to report for work on any day that they are excused from jury duty and there are four hours or more remaining in their regular work schedule. Inform employees that failure to report will result in loss of wages for that day.
Many courts use computers to randomly select prospective jurors from a jury pool source list. The source list is often composed of names of citizens who are licensed to drive and registered to vote. The list is maintained by the state and annually updated.
If an employee’s name is selected as a prospective juror, the court will often send a questionnaire, which is to be completed and returned to the court. Among other things, the questionnaire asks if the employee meets the minimum qualifications for jury service. These qualifications usually consist of the following:
- A U.S. citizen;
- At least eighteen years old;
- Able to understand English in written, spoken, or manually signed mode; and
- Able to receive and evaluate information such that the person is able to render satisfactorily juror service
The juror summons that is mailed to each person called to serve will indicate the general term of jury service. Each state has specific requirements for the length of time jurors can serve.
Individual state law limits the circumstances for which the court may excuse a person from jury duty. Courts have some discretion to excuse someone from jury service upon a finding of hardship, inconvenience, or public necessity. If an employee wants to be excused from jury service, he or she should file a written request with the clerk of court as soon as possible.
Two types of juries may be involved; a grand jury or a petit jury. A grand jury is a group of seven citizens convened for the purpose of determining whether there is sufficient evidence for a person who is accused of a crime to be brought to trial, as opposed to the county attorney filing a charge. The grand jury shall meet at times specified by order of a district court judge, at the request of the county attorney or at the request of the majority of the grand jurors. The county attorney is responsible for presenting evidence to the grand jury. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.
A petit jury acts as the fact finder when a party in a civil case or a defendant in a criminal case has requested a jury. If a jury has not been requested, the judge acts as the fact finder.
Time off to vote
Many states have laws requiring that employees be allowed time off to vote. State laws also specify any penalties that can be applied to employers that fail to provide time off to vote. Most employers voluntarily give time off and often pay employees for the time taken, even in the absence of state laws.
Where state laws require time off, they generally specify an amount of time (typically two to four hours) and usually allow the employer (not the employee) to schedule the time off. That is, the employer may choose whether to allow voting leave at the beginning, middle, or ending of the day.
Companies normally offer paid days off for a death in the immediate family. Usually, the employee’s relationship to the deceased determines the number of days off. For example, the amount of time off allowed for an employee who loses a child would be more than that allowed for the death of a grandparent.
The definition of immediate family can differ by company policy, but may include the following:
- Child (including step-child),
- Grandparent/in-law, and
Remember, an employer is not required by law to offer paid time off under federal law, but some states may require it in defined circumstances. Oregon, for example, requires bereavement leave under the OR Family Leave Act.
Employers may want to implement procedures for employees to use when taking time off for bereavement leave. Some of these procedures/requirements could be:
- Having the employee fill out a “personal time off request” form to notify his or her immediate supervisor of the anticipated time needed away from work;
- Requiring bereavement leave to be used only for preparing and attending any related service; and
- Having the supervisor discuss the request with the employee and come up with exactly how much time will be necessary to be away from work.
Since not all religions or individual situations involve a funeral, employers might not want to restrict leave only for funeral services.
Some companies offer additional benefits such as:
- If an employee is called away from work due to a death in the family, he or she is paid for the remainder of the work shift;
- Part-time employees are offered the same funeral leave benefits as full-time employees;
- Full-time employees are eligible to receive up to four hours of pay to grieve the loss of a personal family friend or relative, other than immediate family; and
- Additional time off may be taken (with management approval) as personal time off, vacation, or time off without pay when extenuating circumstances exist.