Ask HR: Can Employee defer Jury Duty due to workplace needs?

Dear HR, One of my employees just informed me they received a summons to jury duty next month.  Since this is a critical time for us, as seasonal business, may I ask my employee to defer jury duty?

HR Answer: A person may be excused from, or defer jury duty on the basis of an undue hardship or extreme inconvenience to the person, the person’s family, the person’s employer or even the public served by that person.  There are a couple of points to keep in mind, however.  The court must balance the public need for juries against the circumstances surrounding the justification for excuse from jury duty, and a request for excusal does not mean it will be granted. 

You may not retaliate against or terminate an employee who chooses to perform jury duty.  Oregon is an “at will” state, meaning that an employer or an employee may terminate an employment relationship at any time for any reason. However, there is a specific exception in regards to jury duty. Any employer found liable for retaliating against or terminating an employee, who goes on jury duty despite the employer’s request that the employee seek an excusal, faces steep compensatory damages.

Sometimes jury duty may be deferred more than once—but only for a good cause. Any person requesting a second deferral must provide a list of at least 10 dates within the following six-month period in which they would be able to commence jury duty.  Your employee may be granted a deferral now, but could potentially be ordered to return to court to serve at another time.