Jury duty is an important civic responsibility for American adults. Whether or not an individual ultimately ends up being a juror, he or she must still report for jury duty when called, which usually means missing work.
In Florida, it is illegal to fire or threaten to fire an employee because of jury duty obligations. But in a recent wrongful termination lawsuit, a 49-year-old South Florida woman alleges that her employers did just that.
The woman was hired in mid November and was terminated less than a month later. After returning home from the office holiday party on Dec. 13, she called the jury hotline and discovered that she was required to report for duty the next day.
She says she texted her office manager right away and also followed up with emails and texts the next morning to other company officials at the real estate company where she worked.
She received a voicemail while in the jury room. When she listened to the message during a break, she found out she had been fired.
The woman has since sued her former employer for the firing, but company officials claim that her firing was not related to jury duty. Instead, officials said, the woman was in a probationary period and was fired because of performance issues.
But the plaintiff's attorney doesn't buy this argument. He says: "What this employer did was unspeakable - and hiding behind a probationary period is a pretext. There was no indication she'd be fired. She even went to the holiday party the night before."
Jury duty may be an inconvenience to our daily lives, but it is an important civic duty as well as integral to our legal system. But in lawsuits like this, there may be one silver lining: If the woman can present a strong case, she may find most jurors to be quite sympathetic.
Source: WPTV.com, "Fired for jury duty? Jane Trejo-Beverly, Naples woman, sues employer Island Title 5 Star Agency," Aisling Swift, Jan. 5, 2011