Over the summer, many employers hire seasonal workers, such as summer interns from colleges. However, hiring temporary employees can present some substantial legal traps-- here are some of the top pitfalls that employers should watch for.
Are they legally permitted to work in the U.S.?
This one is a no brainer-- it's crucial to verify that all employees are legally allowed to work in the US. Be sure to complete the Form I-9 and E-Verify even for seasonal employees.
Are they a minor?
Under federal and state law, different rules apply to the employment of minors. Be sure to review the law for compliance when employing minors.
Are you required to pay overtime?
Generally, laws require that employers pay overtime, though both federal and state law, exempt certain individuals and businesses from those requirements. Employers should be sure to review their seasonal employees’ status to determine whether they are exempt from overtime.
Does this trigger other legal obligations?
Most federal and state employment laws only apply to businesses that employ a certain number of employees. For example, only those businesses employing at least 15 employees in one location must comply with the Maine Family and Medical Leave Law. Small businesses that may not be covered by certain employment laws should pay attention to whether hiring seasonal employees will increase their total number of employees enough to trigger additional legal obligations.
Can you have “unpaid interns”?
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, there are only narrow circumstances under which a business can hire an “unpaid intern” or “volunteer.” Generally, if an intern is unpaid, he or she must be doing work primarily for his or her own educational benefit, not for the benefit of the business. If the “intern” or “volunteer” performs routine work of the business and the business is dependent on that work, the worker is probably an employee and must be paid minimum wage and overtime. Businesses should be sure to seek guidance when retaining summer interns or volunteers.
If you're hiring seasonal workers, you should always clearly inform those employees that their employment is temporary. Whether you’re performing in person or digital interviews, take care to always apply and follow internal policies, and closely monitor your practices to ensure your business is complying with state and federal laws for all employees. Employers who carefully assess their seasonal hiring practices can take great strides toward protecting themselves from liability.