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Part Time, Temporary, and Seasonal Employees and the Law

In general, employment laws are in place to protect workers. However, workers' rights often depend on the individual's employee status.

In general, there are four types of employees:

  • Full-Time Employees
  • Part-Time Employees
  • Temporary Employees
  • Seasonal Employees

Full-time workers receive the most benefits, but there are requirements on how a company should treat other employees.

How Does Your Employer Determine Your Employee Status?

Most of the time, it's easy to identify what type of employee a worker is. If your company hired you in May for a contract ending in September, you will qualify as a seasonal employee. If your manager requires that you work 40 hours per week, there's a good chance the judge will likely rule that your employer hired you for full-time employment.

It's possible to see an overlap between the above-listed employment categories. A temporary employee may work full-time hours. This doesn't automatically qualify you as a full-time employee. But, your employment lawyer will argue you're eligible for the same benefits as other full-time workers if you're working the same number of hours.

Part-Time Employees

Employers often hire part-time workers to help with increased work demands or seasonal industry fluctuations. Most states define part-time employees as those who work less than 35 hours per week. These laws designate full-time employees as those working at least 40 hours per week.

Companies almost always pay their part-time employees by the hour. They must comply with company rules, policies, and obligations like other company employees.

Your employee status impacts several work factors, including the following:

  • Performance goals
  • Safety rules
  • Company business practices
  • Ongoing training
  • Level of autonomy
  • Who pays for your supplies and equipment

What Benefits Do Part-Time Employees Receive?

Many people assume that part-time workers receive little to no employment benefits. This isn't necessarily the case. Many part-time employees receive pro-rated benefits.

For example, companies often pay full-time workers a full day's wages for major holidays. Part-time workers may still receive holiday pay, but it would equal their average workday, not a full-time workday.

Some of the other benefits that may not be available to people in part-time positions include:

For some of these things, state law dictates how an employer treats an employee. For most of these, however, labor laws don't apply, and the company can decide which benefits they offer part-time employees.

Employment Laws and the 1,000 Hour Rule

Under the Department of Labor's Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), part-time employees should receive benefits similar to full-time employees regarding:

OSHA's safety and health policies concerning work-related injuries, illnesses, and occupational fatalities also apply to part-time workers. Part-time employees who work 1,000 hours or more during a calendar year may be eligible for retirement benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Temporary Employees

Employers typically hire temporary employees (temps) to cover absent employees, such as those on maternity or disability leave, and temporary vacancies. They may also use them to fill gaps in a company's workforce.

Firms can hire temporary employees directly or through a temporary staffing agency. The agency charges the employer a 20-25% higher rate than other employees in the same position. Therefore, It's not surprising that companies don't offer temp workers benefits.

Firms may hire temporary employees to perform work in a range of industries, such as:

  • Clerical
  • Labor and manufacturing
  • Education
  • Information technology
  • Healthcare

Some temporary jobs may lead to permanent employment where appropriate. However, companies hire temporary employees for a specific business purpose to avoid the cost of hiring regular employees.

Temporary employees may work full- or part-time. They can also work for more than one agency. Although not eligible for company benefits, some temporary agencies offer their temp employees health care and other benefits.

In an economic downturn, temporary employees are often the first to go. This makes it less than ideal to accept this type of position.

Seasonal Employees

Companies hire seasonal employees during their busy seasons. This is why they're called seasonal workers. It's common to see companies hire for seasonal employment during the winter holidays. Large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon hire thousands of seasonal employees each year to meet the increased shopping demands of the season.

Seasonal employees work in various industries, including:

  • Retail
  • Hospitality
  • Customer service
  • Shipping/handling
  • Sales
  • Delivery positions

Companies hire seasonal employees on a part-time basis. Federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws protect them.

How Does Your Employer's Hiring Process Impact Your Employment Status?

Your employment law attorney may need specific evidence to prove your employee status. For example, your employer may deny you paid holidays, claiming you are a seasonal worker. Your employment lawyer may be able to point to language in your hiring packet to demonstrate that this isn't the case.

A company's hiring process may help determine your employee status. In the scenario described above, you may have a document stating that your holiday pay will be pro-rated based on your hours of work. This language implies that you are a permanent employee. Otherwise, why would it mention holiday pay at all?

Is Your Employer Denying You Employee Benefits? An Attorney Can Help

Specific laws and regulations apply to different types of workers. Rules regarding sick leave may depend on how many hours an employee works, or whether you're a full-time or part-time employee.

If you believe your employer is taking advantage of you or violating your employee rights, you should first talk to your supervisor. If they cannot resolve the issue, contact your company's Human Resources department.

When all else fails, contact an experienced employment attorney. Get a handle on your situation by discussing your employment questions and concerns with a skilled employment law attorney near you today.

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