Are employers allowed to take disciplinary action when an employee cannot find coverage for a shift missed due to a court order?

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Are employers allowed to take disciplinary action when an employee cannot find coverage for a shift missed due to a court order?

I received a subpoena to be present in court and gave my boss notice as soon as I found out a week before the trial. She informed me that if I could not find anyone to cover my shift that I would be written up and given a verbal warning, as it would be considered a missed shift. Is it legal to threaten this kind of disciplinary action?

Asked on March 11, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Delaware

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Wells the circumstances of your required court appearance will determine to what extent you have rights to protect you against your employer's proposed actions. For example, if it is a court hearing due to your own action or inaction (traffic court due to a ticket issued to you, divorce proceedings in which you are a party, criminal trial in which you are the defendant, and civil proceedings in which you are the plaintiff or defendant), then your employer may be able to write you up and give you a warning because your own actions caused the missed shift. However, if you have vacation days you can use or personal tme you can use, and are allowed to use them with sufficient notice to your employer, then there should be no problem.  However, if you are being subpoenaed through no fault of your own, say you were a witness to an accident or required to show as a witness to testify about someone's character, then there should not be a warning or write up because you did not ask to be subpoenaed. In this situation, you may not have to appear in court. Speak to the counsel who subpoenaed you and explain that you face negative consequences (give the consequences in detail) at work and that either your testimony can be taken via a deposition at a time and place convenient for you or you will have to request that the court not demand your appearance because of the negative implications it can cause for you at work.


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