A former Orlando-based employee of a national trucking company has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was terminated for serving on a federal jury, according to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel.    In an unusual move, the court has appointed a lawyer to represent the former employee.

Whether or not the employee’s allegations are true, employers should remember that both federal and state laws make it illegal to terminate an employee for serving on a jury — regardless of the length of service.

Under federal law, employers held liable are responsible for reinstating the employee, paying the employee’s lost wages and attorney’s fees, and paying a fine of up to $5,000. Under Florida law, employers held liable are responsible for paying the employee compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages.

Neither federal nor Florida law requires employers to pay jurors while they are serving on a jury. However, some county ordinances in Florida, and some states’ laws, do require employers to pay their employees while serving.

If you have employees who have been called to serve on a jury, congratulate them for fulfilling their civic duty, hold their jobs open, and hope that it’s a short trial.  And ask an employment lawyer for advice if you are uncertain about your legal obligations.