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Duty Calls


As a federal employee, you're already doing your civic duty every day just by showing up to work. But that won't get you out of another responsibility: jury duty.

Even FBI Director Robert Mueller wasn't immune to the summons. In May 2006, Newsweek reported that Mueller spent five and a half hours in a Washington courtroom before being dismissed from the juror pool for a murder trial. Mueller, a former prosecutor, had tried cases in front of the presiding judge.

Then in July, The Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column reported that the jury pool for the D.C. Superior Court held both White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Federal law requires all employers, public or private, to give workers time off for jury duty. But the law does not require employers to pay their salaries during trials. Nonetheless, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 87 percent of employers offer paid leave for jury duty.

Federal employees certainly fall in that 87 percent. Whether you're a full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary employee, the government will pay your salary during jury duty. It's called court leave, and using it doesn't reduce your annual or sick leave.

There are a few rules to court leave that have been refined through the years. It can also be used if you're called as a witness, including for depositions that are not in your official capacity. Don't expect court leave if you're testifying on your own behalf, however.

If you're using annual leave when called for jury duty, the court leave will substitute for it and keep you at your old leave level. But if you're on leave without pay, court leave doesn't apply.

If you work a full day and then serve on a grand jury in the evening, you're entitled to a day of court leave the following day to compensate.

If compensated for jury service, federal employees must fork it over to their agencies. In other words -- there's no double dipping. The exception is money paid by the court to cover expenses such as transportation. That you can keep.

To get court leave, show your supervisor your summons. Get a certificate of attendance signed by a court official to document your service and submit this to your supervisor when you return, too.

A short note to Pay and Benefits Watch readers: After two years of writing this column, I'm leaving the magazine for other pursuits. Brittany R. Ballenstedt, who reports on pay and benefits for Government Executive already, will take over. Thanks for reading.

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