A question you might not have considered but could significantly impact you is, what if you are called for jury duty? What if one of your key team members has jury responsibility? What then? Do you close up shop for the trial duration? Can you apply for help anywhere? Can you delay it? Can you claim hardship or just skip out on jury duty? All good questions!
As most people understand, jury duty is a civic responsibility that all Americans must reply to when summoned. That said, many business owners who fear what might happen if they or a key employee have to be gone for several days or more wonder if there are options for either avoiding jury duty or perhaps in some way delaying it. Below are a few things that, as an entrepreneur, you should be aware of where jury duty is concerned.
There Are Some Exemptions from Jury Duty
Keep in mind that every jurisdiction is different; meaning, your jurisdiction may have different rules regarding possible exemptions when serving on a jury. The key, however, is never to throw your summons in the garbage upon receiving them. This could result in fines and prosecution in some cases.
Some states will allow you to be exempt from jury duty if it will cause significant financial hardship. As a small business owner, mainly if you are the company’s sole employee, having to serve jury duty could certainly cause financial trouble. For example, in New York, you may be eligible for up to a two-year exemption under these circumstances.
Another such example might be if you have outstanding loans that need to be repaid, and by missing work, you will be unable to make a payment on time, thus causing you undue hardship.
You Will Need to Make your Case
Whatever the reason you are citing as far as financial hardship, you have to make your case for an exemption from jury duty. Again, if you are among one or two employees of a business and that business will suffer during your absence, you have to be able to speak to why the company will incur hardship.
If your absence necessitates that the business shut its doors, you could also use this as a reason why it would be challenging for you to serve on a jury.
What Happens if You Cannot Get an Exemption from Jury Duty?
Unfortunately, it can be somewhat challenging to get an exemption from jury duty, even if you are a small business owner. So then what happens? What can you do? Again, in just ignoring a summons, you could risk penalties—in some states, this may even mean jail time.
Postponements can sometimes be easier to get than exemptions. By explaining your situation and citing an economic hardship, there is the chance you could get your jury duty postponed for a couple of months. This will give you additional time to develop some plan to sustain operations in your absence or the absence of a key employee.
Even if you do have to show up for jury duty, this does not mean you will be chosen to serve on that jury. More people than are required are called in. If, however, you do find yourself having to help, you want to be proactive—especially where communication with your clients is concerned. Let everyone know what is going on. You might even be able to work during those times court is in recess. You will have to get a bit creative here—but jury duty should not be cause for having to shut down your company entirely.
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