Jury Duty

Adam writes in:

I have jury duty coming up soon. How do you handle this as a PA that can’t really miss work – professionally and financially? Have you had to work around that yet?

I know the feeling.

If you’re on a show, the best course is to just tell your boss. No company is legally allowed to fire you for taking time away for jury duty. An unscrupulous producer might try to do it anyway, but a first year law student would be able to sue the crap out of them, until you’re the President of Hollywood. We’re talking about a violation of the constitution, which is, like, extra illegal.1

Your boss probably will tell you to try and get out of it, but these days, that’s really hard to do. “I need to go to work” is no longer a valid excuse to get out of, or even delay, jury duty in Los Angeles.

No, I didn't really. Do you think I'm an idiot?
I tried this once. The judge was not amused.

Financially, that sucks, because the government pays you, I think, $15 per day, instead of your actual salary. Sadly, this isn’t much of a drop for PAs, but if you’re a grip used to making over $36 an hour, it’s quite the pay cut.

Some companies will pay you your salary while you’re on jury duty, but that’s not common in Hollywood. I did have a coordinator once who actually managed to sneak it past the accountant, but don’t count on that happening for you.

On the other hand, it is your duty as a citizen, so, there’s that. Like de Tocqueville says:

The jury is above all a political institution. It should be regarded as a form of popular sovereignty.

I do not know if juries are useful to civil litigants, but I do know that they are very useful to the people who judge them. I see the jury as one of the most effective means available to society for educating the people.

After a week or so (hopefully), you’ll be back on the job, a better, smarter citizen.

The situation is much worse if you’re not on a show. If you’re sitting in the jury room when you get a job notice, there’s not much you can do about it. As I’ve said, when a show is hiring, they’re hiring right now.

No one will want to hire you, only to find out you have to take the first week (or more!) off to settle the Case of One Rich Asshole Vs. Another Rich Asshole, in the Matter of Whose Lawyer Has the Biggest Dick. The law doesn’t require that they hire you while you’re on jury duty; only that they can’t fire you.

All that being said,  cases rarely last more than a week. I wouldn’t stress too much about it. Everyone’s been out of work for at least a week on hiatus. If going on jury duty is really going to break your bank, you need to learn how to save better.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Of course, Hollywood’s famous free internships violate the 13th amendment, so… yeah.
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