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Hiring Seasonal Workers? How to Stay Legally Compliant

Hiring Seasonal Workers? How to Stay Legally Compliant Credit: Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Seasonal employees, whether they're interns or holiday season retail workers, are only with your company for a set period of time. But don't think you can get away with labor law non-compliance if you use seasonal workers: A lot of the rules, regulations and laws that are in place for regular, full-time employees also stand for these short-term employees.

As with any type of hire, employment laws vary from state to state, so it is important that you are familiar with the specific laws of the state(s) you operate in, said Tricia Meyer, founder and managing attorney at Meyer Law. Here are a few other important factors to consider when hiring and managing seasonal workers so you can avoid legal issues.

If your business schedule changes during certain times of the year (for example, shortened summer hours or extended holiday season hours), you will need to determine whether it will be optional or mandatory for employees. A seasonal-hours policy should be applied to all employees if possible to avoid potential discrimination risks, Meyer said.

A related legal aspect to keep in mind is overtime. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most employees are entitled to be paid at least the federal minimum wage, as well as time-and-a-half overtime pay for any hours beyond 40 in a workweek. Only "amusement or recreational establishments" that operate seven or fewer months per calendar year, or can prove that they make less revenue during certain times of the year, are exempt from this rule.

"With that said, you will legally be required to offer certain benefits to seasonal employees, including worker's compensation and unemployment benefits [depending on circumstances], as well as withhold taxes in the same way you would for a permanent employee," Meyer said.

Meyer added that you may also have to offer certain seasonal employees health coverage depending on the size of your business, how many seasonal employees you have, how many hours they work, and whether they truly meet the definition of a seasonal employee within the Affordable Care Act. Most other benefits would be optional, but it ultimately depends on your business and internal policies and procedures.

Because your seasonal employees are only there for a short period, you may not want to encourage them to take too much time off – and if they do need a day off, you might not think it's worth it to pay for it. Federal law does not mandate any vacation pay, so in most states, the employer can dictate how many vacation days employees are entitled to (if any), and whether the employer will pay for those vacation days.

"A policy can also dictate when employees may take time off as well as any restrictions," Meyer said. "Ultimately, whether and when vacation is taken or not can be determined by the employer."

Need your seasonal workers to wear a uniform or dress to impress? As long as your dress code policy does not discriminate against employees based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, genetic information or age, then the employer can determine the disciplinary actions that occur in the event of a dress code violation, said Meyer.

"The policy should be in writing, and all employees should receive a copy in order to comply. In the event of a violation, the employer may give a warning, up to and including termination," she added.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide a safe working environment. Certain states have passed their own occupational safety and health laws; employers in all other states must follow OSHA laws.

As Meyer told Business News Daily, the type of business you have will determine the rules your employees must follow in areas such as cleanliness, lighting, temperature, restrooms and workstations – "all of which must be reasonable and suitable for the worker and work to be performed."

For more tips on hiring seasonal employees, check out this Business News Daily guide.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily and Business.com. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.