May 17, 2010

Jury Duty and Your Employees

By Paul Bieber

I got the notice in March calling me to appear on May 3. I went and was selected to be on a jury for a trial starting on May 10th. Why is this worthy of a blog for the glass industry?

Because I left the jury room, after the trial, profoundly aware of how important this was, and also, how proud I am of the American system that allows for decisions by peers. I spoke with my fellow Jurors, (we had a lot of down-time), and asked them how they felt about this experience. Ten out of the eleven thought it was great. They felt better about themselves and they felt better about their community. Of the eight people that were employed, seven companies paid for their jury time, and they were very grateful to their companies to allow them to serve. They felt it was just a nuisance at first, but at the end, all shared the pride I felt.

This pride will be transferred back to their work environment. They will tell their friends and your customers what an honor it was to be on a jury, and that their company supported them. They all said they would work harder, taking up the slack whenever another member of their company was called for jury duty.

We had a tough case. In the end we convicted a man for molesting a young boy. Not easy. We were unanimous in our verdict. We knew we did the right thing, for the boy, and for our community.

If you are an employer, wherever possible, make it so your employees can serve on a jury. At my company we used to allow for jury duty every other year, and we paid the difference between the jury payment and the employee’s regular wage. We asked that employee’s call in each day at the end of their duty, and if time allowed, to come back to work to finish the day. I didn’t write any notes trying to get employees dismissed from duty based on ‘job needs’. This cost about a couple of thousand dollars a year in payroll, and disrupted a work crew on occasion. The dividends, although uncalcuable, were well worth it.

I am sure you will get employees who care a little bit more about their community, who will care a little bit more about doing the right thing for you and for your customers. It is worth it for you to foster this.