Monday, April 11, 2016

Get in Shape for Summer 2016

Believe it or not, summer is almost here. Certainly, seasonal hiring is in full swing for many employers as students hurry to line up their summer jobs. Here are five reminders for employers as they hire on their summer staff:

1. Overtime

It used to be that the FLSA and state wage and hour laws allowed employers who primarily provide recreation or amusement services were exempt from overtime obligations for seasonal staff. This meant that miniature golf parks, park districts and the like could hire summer staff at or around minimum wage to fill their extra needs without worry about overtime costs. Believe it or not, many employers remain unaware that in Illinois even seasonal employees are entitled to time and one-half pay for all hours worked over 40 in a work week. 

2. Dress Code

Let’s face it, many students have no idea how to dress for work. Add to that the fact that many summer jobs are outdoors or involve some sort of recreational activity, which call for more casual clothes. The problem is often that some summer employees go beyond casual attire, showing much more skin or inappropriate clothing choices than is tolerable for most businesses’ image. Whether an employer relaxes its dress code for summer months or not, make sure seasonal staff is specifically aware of dress requirements.

3. Sexual Harassment

To avoid seasonal staff getting carried away with their enthusiasm and turning your workplace into a giant frat party, make conduct rules very clear. Chief among those conduct rules is your harassment policy. Seasonal staff is sometimes more prone to inadvertent harassment behavior because of the more carefree attitude of many seasonal staff due to the temporary nature of the job. It is well worth it to spend some time at a summer employee orientation program to familiarize employees with your harassment policy.

4. Drug and Alcohol

Like harassment, drug and alcohol use can be a special problem with seasonal staff. It may or may not be feasible to test every seasonal worker for drug or alcohol use. Because seasonal staff are almost uniformly at-will employees, and since behavior which indicates drug or alcohol use is generally misconduct in some respect, it may be wiser and safer to simply separate most employees who engage in misconduct which also indicates being under the influence. 

5. Child Labor Law

Whether paid or unpaid (which raises a whole other issue) children under the age of 14 years cannot work except in limited situations such as umpires in youth sports programs or working as golf caddies. Significant restrictions apply to 14-16 year olds workers and Illinois law prohibits workers under 18 years of age from operating most machinery (with certain exceptions for family farm work and other limited instances).  

Seasonal workers can fill a special employer need (and keep many high school and college students productive over the summer months). Despite their temporary nature, summer staff comes with the whole panoply of employment issues. Be aware of the typical and special situations of hiring seasonal staff and be in shape for summer.