Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Help Me Howard: Jury Duty Dismissal
When you say most report for jury duty most people say, "Oh no!" But since you have to go most people do. But what happens if you do and your boss says, "You went to jury duty so you are fired?" Good question, and Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser tells us if its legal.
WSVN--If you have a Florida drivers license, odds are you have gotten a summons like this telling you to show up for jury duty. Bettina got one.
Bettina Owens: "My summons number was 221 and I was supposed to go May 22nd, which was on a Monday."
Bettina is a security guard for a private company. She knows the call for jury duty is not an invitation, that if you don't show up you can be held in contempt of court. So she went straight to her boss.
"Did you explain to him you had jury duty?"
Bettina Owens: "I explained to him everything, I even showed him the papers."
"And what did he say?"
Bettina Owens: "He said ok, everything will be taken care of."
Bettina then headed to court to join the dozens of other people in the jury pool. She spend the day waiting and was finally told to go home. As she put it, it was not the highlight of her life
Bettina Owens: "It was boring, it was long, the judges would come in and give their little talk, whatever."
The real surprise came when she checked her phone for messages and had one from her security guard boss.
Bettina Owens: "Round about two, three o'clock I got a call saying, 'Well I didn't know you wasnt coming in for work at all.'"
The call ended with the news Bettina was out of a job.
Bettina Owens: "As a matter of fact don't even show up, don't even come to work."
Bettina had been fired for following the courts order to do jury duty over security guard duty.
"Did you know that going to jury duty would get you fired?"
Bettina Owens: "No...not in a million years."
Bettina called her boss but he would not talk to her. Not too surprising since this company is a little on the strict side. Just look at the list of fines you got for certain offenses.
Bettina Owens: "If you are late for duty, a hundred dolllars. Sleeping on duty, a hundred dollars. Heath interfering with duty, fifty dollars. Abandoning post, two-hundred and fifty dollars."
But even with all that Bettina was surprised her boss whacked her for going to jury duty.
"Jury duty cost you your job?"
Bettina Owens: "Right. Is that even legal?"
Mr. Finkelstein, I assume you don't need to do alot of research to answer this one?
Howard Finkelstein, Seven's Legal Expert: "No, and you don't need to go to law school to know that if you interfere with an employee trying to perform their civic duty the law will deal harshly with you. Not only can you be fined, the supervisor who fired her knowing she had jury duty, could go to jail."
When I called the owner of the security company he admitted his supervisor had fired Bettina and that he had made a mistake.
That as soon as the owner found out he called Bettina and told her to come back to work, that she was not fired, but she will not come back to work for me.
Bettina says she wont because the same supervisor will still be her boss.
"Do you want to go back there?"
Bettina Owens: "No, no I never want to go back there."
Howard says in most cases the fired employee can sue and collect damages, but probably not in this one.
Howard Finkelstein: "Because the owner admitted his supervisors mistake and offered her job back the company is probably off the hook. But, by the same token, you can't blame Bettina for not wanting to go back since the supervisor will not be happy to see her."
Bettina is now looking for a new job -- and all the people sitting in a jury pool today can be reminded, when they head back to work, their job will be there.
Patrick Fraser: "I have been called for jury duty a few times and served on two juries...I loved it. Both were short and fascinating. And it's an interesting way to spend a day and the good thing if you find them guilty. They can go to jail, you go home."
Someone decided to be judge jury and executioner with you? Need a reprieve? Contact us. We'll pool our resources and find a legal loophole for you.
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