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Seasonal workers warrant equal treatment in employment law matters, Oklahoma City lawyer says

McAfee & Taft's Sharolyn Whiting-Ralston discusses the employment rights of seasonal workers.
Oklahoman Modified: December 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm •  Published: December 19, 2013


Seasonal employees must be

treated like other workers

Q: Many businesses have geared up for the holiday rush by hiring additional workers, but the hiring of seasonal employees isn't just limited to retailers at the holidays. What do employers need to know about employing seasonal workers?

A: Seasonal employees — no matter what industry or time of year they are working — should be treated like any other employee. However, employers need to remember that some laws are triggered when they reach a certain number of employees, and seasonal employees may be included when making that count. For instance, employers with 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year are subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, and seasonal workers are included in that count. Other examples include the federal WARN Act, which requires certain notices for layoffs and plant closings. Under the federal WARN Act, seasonal employees who've worked at least six of the past 12 months with an average of more than 20 hours per week will be counted. So, if employers hire seasonal employees and run close to threshold numbers, they need to pay attention to the legalities that may be triggered. Additionally, seasonal agricultural workers have certain protections under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

Q: Are there scheduling restrictions for seasonal employees?

A: Unless they're under the age of 18, no. Seasonal employees must be paid minimum wage and overtime consistent with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Oklahoma wage laws (no passes just because they are only with you for a short period of time). Likewise, seasonal employees must be allowed any breaks required for other employees. For instance, the FLSA requires employers to provide unpaid break time and space for nursing mothers to express milk for one year after the birth of a child. Although it's not specific to seasonal jobs, workers who are ages 16 or 17 don't have any restrictions on the number or timing of the hours they may work, as long as they're not working in occupations the secretary of Labor has declared hazardous. However, several laws restrict the hours and types of work in which a child under 16 may participate. So, if your 14-year-old neighbor kid wants to work for your retail store wrapping gifts, you need to double-check the rules.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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