(Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
Facebook Inc. employees trying to get out of jury duty can no longer use the classic “but I can’t miss work” excuse.
The social media giant announced Friday it will pay full-time employees who are called for jury duty or as witnesses at trial for an unlimited amount of service, in a Facebook post by Paul Grewal, vice president and deputy general counsel.
“I understand that jury duty isn’t exactly a passion for most people, but strange as it may sound, it is for me,” wrote Grewal, who served as a U.S. magistrate judge in the Northern District of California prior to joining Facebook last year. ”By expanding our policy to cover jury service spanning more than 10 days, we are not only acknowledging the importance of juries in our society, but giving our employees the resources and encouragement to step up and serve when asked.”
In an interview in the run-up to Friday’s announcement, Grewal said Facebook previously had a written policy that offered to pay for up to 10 days per year to employees who serve as jurors or witnesses. But he said the company consistently granted exemptions to the 10-day limit in the past and continued paying employees who informed the company they’d be required to serve longer. The changes announced Friday, Grewal said, make that informal rule official company policy and signal to employees—and the company’s neighbors in Silicon Valley—that jury service is “a real civic obligation” that Facebook takes seriously.
“I do think that to the extent that people are reluctant to serve, one reason why is that they are worried about missing work,” Grewal said.
Grewal said that part of the impetus behind making the move official was his experience on the bench interacting with prospective jurors in the San Jose federal courthouse.
“In case after case, people who wanted to serve had to almost sheepishly volunteer that they were going to miss a paycheck” if chosen, Grewal said. Grewal said he would always grant a hardship dismissal in those cases to be fair to the individual and the parties involved in the case.
But, he said, those jurors who spoke up weren’t just from mom-and-pop shops who might have trouble paying to support an absent worker. “I was surprised when people with serious jobs in serious companies would tell me that there were getting no pay for service or possibly for just a couple of days,” he said.
Grewal said he’s aware of a number of companies that have unofficial policies to support prolonged jury service similar to the one Facebook had. “I’m hopeful as we are more explicit and express about this, the ones that aren’t quite there yet will follow.”