It is against federal law for an employer to “discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any permanent employee by reason of such employee’s jury service.” 28 U.S.C. § 1875. In the event of a violation, the employer may be ordered to reinstate the employee and may face liability for back pay, attorneys’ fees and costs, and a civil penalty of up to $1,000. Illinois law also protects the employment rights of jurors, and allows the State’s Attorney to bring civil and criminal contempt actions against employers who violate the law. 705 ILCS 305/4.1.
On March 14, 2007, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued a press release stating that Chief Judge James F. Holderman had appointed counsel for two jurors who had informed the court that they had been fi red for serving on a grand jury. In both cases the employees claimed that, before being fi red, supervisors had discouraged them from performing grand jury service.
If the employees choose to fi le suit, it will be the fi rst time such claims have been brought in the Northern District.
Judges and court clerks routinely inform potential jurors of their employment rights under the law, so employees serving as jurors can be expected to be well informed. Although lengthy absences from work can be disruptive, employers should avoid discouraging employees from performing jury service and carefully consider any adverse employment action taken near the time an employee serves or is scheduled to serve on a jury. If you have any questions about compliance with the federal or state laws prohibiting juror discrimination and retaliation, please contact Patrick W. Spangler (312-609-7797) or any other Vedder Price attorney with whom you have worked.