The Value of Jury Duty
2 months ago, the mail slipped through our mail slot like it does everyday. Like everyday, my two dogs charged full-steam to the door and started barking their heads off. Nothing special, just a normal day. Thumbing through the envelopes, it was all the normal stuff - the electric bill, credit card offers, and catalogues addressed to the previous owner of our house. But one letter stuck out. It was from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office.
Cut to me to last Wednesday I was actually excited for jury duty. Working from home has a ton of perks, I can’t stress that enough. Working in sweatpants is awesome, need I say more? But it was actually energizing that day to shower, wear non-sweatpants, hop in my car and drive downtown.
When I walked into the jury waiting room there were about 300 potential jurors each wearing a three digit number clipped to their shirt. After about an hour of just waiting, numbers started getting called. 248. 198. 337.
337? That number sounded familiar. I looked down to the number hanging off my shirt. 337. Wow, third number called. I joined the line in the appropriate order and after another period of waiting, I was led into the court room along with the 75 or so other jurors called. The order in which we were called ended up being important and we filed into the court room in that specific order. The first 12 were led to the jury box. The second 6 sat in the alternate jury area. The other 60 or so sat in the general seating area of the courtroom.
Yep, I was one of the 12 right off the bat. The jury selection process in and of itself is fascinating. I bet a lot of readers have been through the process, so I will skip ahead to say I was not removed from the 12 and when it was all said and done, I was on the jury.
I’m not going to talk about the case or what the outcome was except to say that after 2 days of opening statements, testimony, evidence, closing statements and deliberation, we the jury did come to a unanimous verdict.
So why am I talking about this on my blog post? Well first of all, last week when I was supposed to be working on my blog post I was on jury duty. Second of all, if you can’t tell from my story I actually was excited to be on jury duty and I think you should be too. Also, Thin Pig is extremely supportive of our employees serving on jury duty, and your company should be too.
Regardless if you are an employee or an employer, serving on a jury is a sacred duty in our country and should be supported. During one of the many, many periods of waiting during this process, another jury member said, “If you have ever lived in a country that doesn’t have free elections, you would vote in America every single election.” I think there is a similar sentiment to jury duty in the United States. A couple hundred years ago it was a novel and inspiring idea that your peers would decide your fate. A jury by your peers is a fundamental component of American democracy and participation in what is one of the most direct implementations of our Constitution should be exciting.
Unfortunately, jury duty makes some employees nervous. Am I going to get paid from my employer? Am I going to get in trouble? What if the trial goes on for months, will I still have my job?
Thankfully there are federal and state protections for jurors. For instance, in Missouri an employer is prohibited from “discharging, threatening, disciplining, or otherwise taking adverse action against an employee because he or she takes time off to serve on jury duty”. Also, Missouri law “prevents an employer from requiring that an employee take vacation, sick leave, or other paid time off to respond to a jury summons, participate in the jury selection process, or serve on a jury.”
However in Missouri and other states, an employer is not required to pay an employee for days served on jury duty. For the jury I served on, you received $14 per day for appearing for jury duty and a whopping $18 per day for actually serving on duty. For people who are unable to work because of jury duty, there is no way that $18 per day covers what you lost. And I think that is a bummer. As an employer, I suggest not taking the viewpoint of “well the employee did not work that day, so why would I pay them?” but instead squint your eyes and think about what you did get out of your employee serving on jury duty.
From first hand experience, I can say that there was a wealth of value gleaned from serving on a jury. Serving on a jury provides a first hand experience with the constitutional values of “Participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, accountability, liberty, and the common good.” I believe that those values directly translate into just about every job.
For instance, the experience of formal deliberation, 12 jurors in a sealed room working together to unanimously come to a decision that will affect multiple peoples lives, is a skill that translates to any team-based organization where people need to work together to solve problems, compose proposals or even just decide where everyone should go to lunch that day.
The argumentative nature of a courtroom also breeds an awareness of how formulating strong, cohesive arguments can further causes within your organization you champion. Understanding how evidence can either benefit or denigrate your position can easily be applied to the professional workspace.
In conclusion, I personally relished the opportunity to see American democracy in action from the jury box, and the insights gained will absolutely influence in a positive way my work performance. I hope employers will take a cue from Thin Pig Media and view jury duty as not only a solemn civic duty, but also a unique opportunity for the professional development of their employees.