Contributed by Samantha Esmond
James Henders, a Chicago-area man, has alleged that hhgregg electronics fired him for reporting as required to serve on a federal jury. Mr. Henders worked as a sales associate at the Arlington Heights hhgregg electronics’ store. His former employer bases the reason for Mr. Henders’ termination on low sales; however, Chief Judge James Holderman of the Northern District of Illinois reasoned that “it is plausible to infer that the real reason for Mr. Henders’ termination was his jury service.”
Chief Judge Holderman further reasoned that the only difference between Mr. Henders and other similarly situated sales associates is that Mr. Henders just informed hhgregg that he would need to miss work for six to eight weeks because of his jury service. Mr. Henders was terminated three days after informing his employer of his jury service. Chief Judge Holderman concluded that Mr. Henders’ claims may have merit and appointed an attorney to represent him.
The Federal Protection of Jurors’ Employment statute, 28 U.S.C. §1875, protects employees from being discharged, intimidated or coerced by his or her permanent employer because of such employee’s attendance or scheduled attendance at jury duty. This statute covers employees who actually attend or are scheduled to attend jury duty.
An employer who violates this federal statute shall be liable for loss of wages or other benefits suffered by the employee, the reinstatement of any employee discharged by reason of his or her jury service, a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000 for each violation as to each employee, and the employee’s reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Although Mr. Henders was selected to act as a juror for a six to eight week trial, this is not the average time most jurors are asked to serve in the Northern District of Illinois. The average time a juror will serve is 3-5 days in the Chicago and Rockford divisions.