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Post date: April 19 1999

Decision Protects Employees Called To Jury Duty

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has won an important decision that will help protect employees from retribution by employers when they are called to jury duty.

"Anything that undermines the ability of an individual to fulfill his or her civic responsibility as a juror is an attack on the integrity of the courts and must be addressed aggressively," Spitzer said. "This decision should remind all employers that they must respect the critical role of jurors in the legal system and that they should support their employees who are called to jury service."

Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director New York State League of Women Voters said, "A jury of your peers is a guarantee of our democratic society. If jurors are penalized for participating in this civil function, the judicial system, and the citizens’ trust in that system, is seriously weakened."

In a post-trial decision announced recently, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Joseph DeMaro, found the Law Office of Anne Rosenbach; and Anne Rosenbach, Esq., its principal, guilty of Criminal Contempt of Court for penalizing an employee, Lynn Weit, for a two-day stint as a juror.

Weit worked as an attorney in Rosenbach’s law office in Massapequa. In December of 1995, Weit received a jury summons and informed her employer that she would be absent from work to fulfill her civic obligation. Rosenbach repeatedly urged Weit to seek an adjournment from jury service -- and continued to pressure her even after the court refused an adjournment.

Following two days of jury service, Weit was discharged from the jury pool, expecting to immediately resume her duties at the law firm. Upon Weit’s return, however, Rosenbach informed Weit that she had made other temporary staffing arrangements, and that her services were not required for an additional seven working days. These actions amounted to an unpaid furlough for Weit, who subsequently was fired by Rosenbach. Weit later filed a complaint against Rosenbach with the Nassau County Commissioner of Jurors, and the case was referred to the Office of the Attorney General.

In his decision, Judge DeMaro found Rosenbach’s justification for the seven-day layoff to be inappropriate, and he said that her actions constituted a penalty for Weit’s jury service. He ordered the law office to pay a fine of $500, and ordered Rosenbach to pay $560 in lost wages to Weit, and to make an additional $250 payment to the Interest on Lawyer’s Accounts (IOLA) fund. The IOLA fund provides grants to legal programs throughout New York State.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Brand, Section Chief for the Department of Law’s Labor Bureau.

"Lynn Weit was penalized by her employer for simply fulfilling her civic duty," Brand said. "This violation was particularly egregious given that Rosenbach is a practicing attorney, and should be keenly aware of the importance of jurors to the legal system."