United States: Top 10s For Seasonal Hiring

Last Updated: October 3 2017
Article by Kelly S. Hughes

It's that time of year again—many employers, especially retailers and hospitality employers, are hiring seasonal workers for the holiday shopping season. Despite the challenge of adding so many employees in a short period of time, human resources departments shouldn't take shortcuts with recruiting, onboarding, and training. Below are 10 tips to keep in mind during this hectic time of year.

1 Review Employment Applications

Employers should take this opportunity to review their applications for compliance with federal, state, and local laws. For ex­ample, many states and municipalities have passed "ban the box" legislation, limiting the types of information employers can ask new applicants. Failure to comply with such laws can result in steep penalties.

2 Don't Skip the Background Check

Companies that perform background checks as part of the regular hiring pro­cess may want to do the same for season­al hires. Though background checks can be costly and time-consuming, employers should think twice before omitting them. Also, keep in mind the various obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and any similar state laws when taking ad­verse employment actions based upon in­formation contained in a consumer report.

3 Review Leave Policies

The "localization" of employment laws at the state and municipal levels has continued in 2017, further complicating compliance for multistate employers. Leaves of absence laws are among the most common, with several local jurisdictions requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave. Be sure that leave policies have been updated to comply with the new requirements.

4 Train Seasonal Hires

Training seasonal workers during the onboarding process can help the organization run smoothly and minimize liability down the road. Key areas on which employers may want to train seasonal hires include policies on equal employment opportunity, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation (which should include reporting mechanisms for employee complaints); wage and hour; workplace safety; attendance expectations; and general workplace rules.

5 Put it in Writing

Separation is one area where the policies that apply to regular employees and seasonal employees may differ, depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction. For example, in some cases, seasonal employees do not accrue vacation or sick leave, and, as a result, those issues don't need to be addressed at termination. However, employers may want to carefully consider what rights do apply. They may also want to document the separation process and complete exit interviews with seasonal employees so that accurate records of employees' time with the company are maintained.

Communicating with seasonal workers during the onboarding process is critical to minimize liability down the road. Here are some key areas to consider documenting:

  • Duration of Employment — Employers may want to give their seasonal employees an idea of the likely duration of the employment, but do not guarantee or promise a specific period of employment (and thus alter the employee's at-will status). Consider requiring seasonal employees to sign an acknowledgment that their employment is at-will.
  • Compensation — Give employees information about their pay rates; most seasonal workers are nonexempt, and it is important to make sure that the hourly pay rate is communicated to the employee before starting work.
  • Job Description — Employers may want to give seasonal employees a copy of their job descriptions so they fully understand the scope of their responsibilities.
  • Employee Handbook — Employers may want to provide a copy of the handbook and ask seasonal employees to sign a written acknowledgment confirming receipt. At a minimum, consider providing copies of applicable equal employment opportunity, non-harassment/retaliation, and wage and hour policies.

6 Don't Forget About Other State and Local Laws

In addition to leaves of absence, many states and local governments have passed laws related to minimum wage and predictive scheduling and have enacted protections for pregnant and nursing mothers. Just because they are employed for a short period of time does not mean that seasonal workers are not entitled to the protection of these laws. Employers should examine which state and local laws apply to their locations and take steps to comply.

7 Make Sure That the Employee is Eligible

Seasonal workers have the same eligibility verification requirements as nonseasonal workers. Be sure to comply with I-9 verification requirements.

8 Know the Separation Process for Seasonal Hires

Separation is one area where the policies that apply to regular employees and seasonal employees may differ, depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction. For example, in some cases, seasonal employees do not accrue vacation or sick leave, and, as a result, those issues don't need to be addressed at termination. However, employers may want to carefully consider what rights do apply. They may also want to document the separation process and complete exit interviews with seasonal employees so that accurate records of employees' time with the company are maintained.

9 Seasonal Hires May Count as Part of the Workforce Under Some Laws

Remember that seasonal employees may need to be counted for purposes of applicable state or federal laws. Smaller employers in particular need to be cognizant of the potential impact of seasonal workers with respect to the triggering of employment laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If the employer is rather small but utilizes seasonal employees for 20 or more workweeks during the calendar year, those employees will be counted when determining whether the employer has the required number of employees for purposes of Title VII coverage. Similarly, adding seasonal workers could cause an employer to qualify as an applicable large employer under the Affordable Care Act.

10 The Same Rules Apply

Finally, remember that the same employment laws, regulations, and protections generally apply to all employees—even if the term of employment is brief. Seasonal employees are protected by provisions of Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other important federal and state laws. Unless doing so would create an undue hardship, employers must reasonably accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs and must reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. If a seasonal employee requests an accommodation, treat the request as you would a request by a permanent employee.

We are pleased to provide you with the September/October 2017 issue of The Employment Law Authority. To view the "flipbook" version of the issue, click here. To download and print a PDF of the issue, click here

Editor in Chief: Jansen A. Ellis; Managing Editor: Stephanie A. Henry; Articles Editor: Hera S. Arsen

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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