Employment Laws for Part-Time, Temporary and Seasonal Workers
As a campus recruiter, it’s important to be well-versed in the laws that govern part-time, temporary and seasonal workers. The type of employer-employee relationship a recruiter is hiring for comes with its own particular set of employment laws to be aware of. A great resource for learning about the relevant employment laws is The United States Department of Labor (DOL), which administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws. While this number may seem daunting, below are highlights and key concepts recruiters should be aware of as they relate to part-time, temporary and seasonal workers. For a comprehensive list of laws, visit DOL.
Part-Time Employment Law Considerations
The difference between full-time employment status and part-time employment status is defined by the number of hours an employee works each week. Full-time employment is usually defined by at least 40 hours per week, whereas part-time employment is usually a minimum of 20 hours per week. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Economic News Release describes part-time employees as individuals working one to 34 hours per week. It is up to the employer to decide internally how they choose to define part-time vs. full-time hours. However, there are benefit eligibility implications for employees based on the number of hours the employee works.
For example, if a company decides that part-time employment is 32 hours or less, then those employees most likely would not be eligible for medical and other core company benefits and incentives. However, companies have some flexibility when it comes to offering part-time employees other incentives, such as paid time off. HR should rely on all local, state and federal laws before creating specific policies for part-time employees. A helpful list of state labor websites can be found on the DOL website.
Another item to note related to part-time employment is that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not consider part-time vs. full-time status when applying exemption vs. non-exemption status (mainly for overtime pay.) Therefore, recruiters will need to conduct the same FLSA tests for part-time employees that they do for full-time employees to ensure they are classified appropriately. For additional information about FLSA, recruiters and HR can visit the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL website.
Recruiters should ensure that part-time offer letters state the terms of employment clearly as they relate to benefit eligibility and payment status, i.e. hourly, overtime eligibility, etc. In addition, the offer letter should state that employment is at-will and the employment relationship can be terminated by the employer or employee at any time.
When it comes to policies and practices other than benefit eligibility, part-time employees should be treated the same as full-time employees as per the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Contingent workers are a group of people who work for an organization on an occasional or non-permanent basis. Examples of these types of workers include freelancers, temporary workers, unpaid interns and seasonal contract workers.
Temporary Employment Law Considerations
The main difference between a temporary worker and other employment categories is the specific timeframe in which he/she can work for an employer. Temporary workers are hired for a limited period of time that should not exceed more than six months.
Temporary workers are typically not eligible for core benefits like medical and other benefits that are required by ERISA, The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ERISA is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans. While a temporary worker isn’t eligible for these plans, an employer might offer the ability to participate in other ancillary benefits. Offering any benefits to entry-level temp workers is not required, but is a nice perk and differentiator for your company – especially compared to competitor companies that offer no benefits to temporary talent.
The employment letter/contract for a temporary worker should specify the duration of the project, along with how they will be paid: hourly, salaried, etc. There should also be a clause regarding the employer’s ability to end the contract early in the event that the temporary relationship isn’t working. Once the contract ends, employers may or may not be responsible for covering an unemployment claim, depending on state laws, the conditions of the assignment and the way it ended.
Consider hiring temporary workers when there is a short-term employment need that requires a unique skillset that existing staff do not possess. An additional perk to hiring temporary workers is that employers are not responsible for paying worker’s comp or FICA taxes for temporary workers. However, it is important for HR and recruiters to be mindful that if the temporary worker works more than 6 months, they will need to consider hiring the employee into a part-time or full-time employment status. This is to avoid potential legal pitfalls around the notion that the employer is treating the temporary worker unfairly by not providing benefits and other coverage.
Seasonal Worker Employment Law Considerations
Seasonal employment is just as it sounds: workers in this category do not work year-round, but on a seasonal basis such as holiday time, summer time, tax season, or winter ski season, for example. Most seasonal workers have the same rights as other contingent employees in that they are entitled to a minimum wage, but they do not receive other perks like health insurance.
A recruiter should consider the below guidance in order to categorize a position as a seasonal worker:
- Ensure that the position will last less than 6 months (or 120 days).
- Ensure that every year at the same time, the employer has the same need to hire for this temporary position.
- Conduct FLSA analysis to identify if the position is eligible for overtime.
- Review child labor regulations to ensure seasonal work eligibility within particular industries and the limitations (if any).
- Remember that employment laws, including those related to discrimination and workplace safety, apply to seasonal workers just as they do for regular employees.
Classifying workers correctly as employees vs. temporary or another contingent status is an important employer responsibility. Failure to identify positions correctly can lead to litigation, expensive fines, and back-pay.
The key difference between an employee and part-time status vs. contingent worker status is benefit eligibility and the associated costs to the employer. Employers should never make their employment classification decisions based on cost-savings for not having to pay FICA or benefit premiums. Instead, the decision should be based on the employer’s needs and whether the position is a long-term commitment vs. a short-term opportunity.
Once you have decided what type of position you need to hire for, post your position to multiple campuses using an all-encompassing recruitment tool such as Symplicity Recruit.
United States Department of Labor. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/
United States Department of Labor (2017). Wage and Hour Division: State Labor Offices. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/whd/contacts/state_of.htm
United States Department of Labor (2017). Compliance Assistance – Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/
United States Department of Labor. (2017). Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/retirement/erisa
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/
U.S. Publishing Office. (2017). Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved from https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=dd9738cc614f7599e127eb4a3d340147&r=PART&n=pt29.3.570