Ontario law requires that every citizen resident in Ontario and over the age of 18 be mandated to serve as a juror. A person may be selected to sit on a jury panel for either a civil or a criminal trial. This obligation is one that is owed as a member of the public to the court process.
There are some exceptions. A lawyer or an articling student or a medical physician is exempt as is a firefighter, a police officer, a member of the armed forces and other specific occupations.
In addition, any person convicted of a serious criminal offence, which has not been pardoned, is not eligible. If the requirement of serving as a juror would be a hardship due to a medical illness, travel plans, or employment or any other reason, you must attend at the appointed date and request the judge to allow a deferral or a full excusal. You must provide the judge with appropriate documentation or other evidence to support this request.
Recently, a judge on a murder trial in Toronto was informed by several potential jurors that they would not be compensated by employers if selected. One potential juror worked with the automotive services department at a local Canadian Tire retail store, and had been provided with a letter indicating he would not receive payment, as jury duty was not a ‘company benefit’.
In response, the judge wrote a letter to Canadian Tire’s general counsel, stating:
“I find it surprising that Canadian Tire’s policy is that payment while on jury duty is a ‘company benefit,'” Goldstein wrote in his letter. “Citizens who serve on juries are not receiving a benefit; they are doing a civic duty. Trial by jury in serious criminal matters is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy,” he continued.
Summons for Jury Duty
If you are requested to appear for jury duty, this does not mean that you will actually sit as a juror. You may be called for certain trials and may be subject to a request by counsel for any party to be excused from that trial for no stated reason. The lawyers will know your name, age and occupation and nothing else. This is called a “pre-emptory” challenge. In civil cases, each side is allowed four such requests to stand down a juror. This does not mean the end of jury duty, as you will be returned to the jury panel for other possible trials.
Once summonsed for the jury panel, you must attend for a minimum of one day or up to a cap of seven days, without being assigned to a trial.
After you are summonsed, whether or not you are sitting on a trial, you are not eligible for further jury duty for three years.
In civil trials, there will be six jurors. The jury is asked a series of questions at the end of the trial. Each question must be answered by agreement by five of the six. Each question may be answered by a differently composed five jurors. In a criminal case, there are twelve jurors and unanimity is required, usually on a question of guilty or not, on the charge or charges before them.
Ontario law does not require employers to pay a salary for the period of jury duty. Your employer may have a written policy allowing for this as a full or partial salary. It also may have shown by a visible past practice that it will do so. The failure to pay the relevant sum or invoking discipline for requesting this, such as termination, may allow for a severance claim and/or a case for moral damages.
There are payments provided to jurors by the Ontario Government but they are modest. There is no payment for cases 10 days or less. For trials in excess of 10 days, jurors are paid $40 a day for days 11 to 49. For longer trails, usually criminal cases, the payment from day 50 forward is at the rate of $100 daily. If your employer is supplementing your payment, you must account for these receipts which will likely adjust your employer’s obligation accordingly.
In certain cases requiring out of town travel, travel allowances and overnight accommodation are required for distances in excess of 40 km.
Leave of Absence
One thing that is protected is the right to return to employment upon the conclusion of jury duty. You must be returned to the same position held before the commencement of the jury duty or be given comparable work at the same rate of pay. There must be no loss of seniority or similar benefit which is based on the length of service which has been accrued to the commencement of the jury duty. That is, service is not continued for the period, but rather interrupted, and then reinstated back to the date of hire.
The statute, The Jurors Act, states that an employer in breach of this obligation is liable to the juror in any damages occasioned by the breach.
In addition, an employer that threatens a loss of position or actually causes this is guilty of an offence and may be fined up to $10,000 and/or imprisoned for three months. The same applies to a company that causes or threatens to cause a financial penalty to the juror.
Canadian Tire Corporate Provides Update
In response to the judge’s letter in the case at hand, Canadian Tire’s corporate counsel responded, indicating that the initial letter had been provided by an independent franchisor. However, the company indicated that the employee would, in fact, be compensated should he be selected for duty.
Get Advice and Know Your Rights
For advice on this issue and all employment law matters, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416-364-9599 to schedule a consultation.
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