There are numerous urban legends and endless misinformation about employers’ rights and obligations to employees when the employee has to appear in court (as something other than a defendant).
Georgia Law on Court Attendance Leave
Here is a basic summary of relevant Georgia law on this subject:
Georgia’s jury duty leave law comes in under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated at Title 15, Ch. 1; Title 20, Ch. 2, Art. 17, Part 5; Title 34, Ch. 1. Corresponding regulations for state employment are located in the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia at Title 478, Ch. 478-1.
The statutes and regulations, with some exceptions, make it unlawful for an employer to discharge, discipline, or otherwise penalize an employee because the employee is absent from employment for the purpose of attending a judicial proceeding in response to a subpoena, summons for jury duty, or other court order or process that requires the attendance of the employee at the judicial proceeding (Sec. 34-1-3(a) and Ga CompR &Regs 478-1-.18, Sec. 18.600). It is also unlawful for an employer to threaten any sort of retaliation toward an employee who is required to appear in court. (Exceptions below)
State employees are allowed to miss as much work time as the court requires that employee’s attendance, as well as reasonable travel time. The employee continues to get paid for that period.
Exceptions to Court Attendance Leave
The law covers both public and private employers. However, it does not keep the employer from requiring reasonable notice to the employer, and does not apply to a defendant in a criminal action. It also exempts a state agency if the employee is a party to civil litigation or has some other personal interest in a lawsuit. State employees are also required to submit a request for leave, accompanied by a copy of the subpoena or other court document.
Recovering Damages for Illegally Denied Leave
The law has a civil penalty section, which allows a lawsuit for actual damages plus attorney’s fees. It allows both for a jury proceeding and for a direct court action for contempt, with civil judgment penalties in the contempt action.
Georgia has also enacted a law on the same topic specifically targeted for teachers.
For more information or to talk to a Georgia employment lawyer, contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP.