The Tennessee Attorney General recently addressed the following question regarding employer compensation for employees on jury duty: Does Tennessee Code Annotated § 22-4-106(b) require an employer to compensate an employee for travel time to and from jury duty when the employee is not compensated for travel as part of the employee’s usual compensation from the employer? According to the Opinion issued by the Tennessee Attorney General, the answer is yes–an employer is required to compensate an employee for travel time to and from jury duty, as well as for the employee’s service on the jury.
Tennessee Code Annotated § 22-4-106(b) states:
Notwithstanding the excused absence as herein provided in subsection (a), the employee shall be entitled to the employee’s usual compensation received from such employment; however, the employer has the discretion to deduct the amount of the fee or compensation the employee receives for serving as a juror. Moreover, no employer shall be required to compensate an employee for more time than was actually spent serving and traveling to and from jury duty. If an employer employs less than five (5) people on a regular basis or if the juror has been employed by an employer on a temporary basis for less than six (6) months the employer is not required to compensate the juror during the period of jury service pursuant to this section. (emphasis added)
As a general rule, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not require employers to pay employees for travel time between their home and regular place of work. Therefore, an employee who commutes an hour from home to get to work and works an eight-hour shift would usually be compensated for only the eight hours of work. However, under the Tennessee statute and the Opinion, an employee should be paid his or her “usual compensation,” for time “actually spent serving and traveling to and from jury duty.” The Opinion interprets “usual compensation” to mean an employee’s rate of pay, rather than the employee’s amount of pay. Thus, an employee who travels an hour from home to get to the court and serves eight hours on jury duty would be entitled to 10 hours of pay–two hours for travel to and from the court and eight hours for jury duty.
The Opinion does not specifically address situations where an employee is paid on a salaried, as opposed to on an hourly basis. However, the Opinion noted that the legislative history of the statute indicates that a salaried employee would receive his or her usual salary upon a pro rated basis if jury duty is less than the employee’s regular work day. Therefore, the Opinion should only affect compensation of hourly workers. However, no such limitation was stated in the Opinion.
As noted above, the requirement of payment for jury duty does not apply to employers that employ less than five people on a regular basis or employees who have been employed by an employer on a temporary basis for less than six months. The Opinion does not identify any other exceptions.
If you have any questions regarding the Tennessee Attorney General’s Opinion or the statute, please contact your employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.