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Part Time, Temporary, and Seasonal Employees

In general, employment laws are in place to protect workers. However, the rights that are afforded to workers usually depend on their employee status. Generally speaking, there are four types of employees:

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

Among the different types of employees, workers who are full-time are usually entitled to the most benefits. However, there are requirements on how other types of employees should be treated as well. 

It's also possible for some overlap between the above-listed employee categories, meaning that a temporary employee may work full-time, although that still wouldn't make them a "full-time employee." In this article you'll find an overview of what constitutes part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees, and the general rights afforded to each.

Part-Time Employees

Employers often hire part-time workers to help with increased work demands or seasonal industry fluctuations that sometimes occur in certain industries. Most states define part-time employees as those who work less than 35 hours per week, compared to full-time employees who typically work at least 40 hours per week.

Part-time employees are typically paid on an hourly basis and must comply with company rules, policies, and obligations, such as performance goals, safety rules, and company business practices. Even so, part-time employees generally have limited or no company benefits, such as health benefits, vacation and sick time, paid holidays, and unemployment compensation, among others, unless required by state labor laws and/or company policies.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), part-time employees are treated the same as full-time employees when it comes to minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor. Part-time employees are also covered under OSHA's safety and health policies concerning work-related injuries, illnesses, and occupational fatalities. Finally, 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

Temporary employees, sometimes referred to as "temps," are typically hired to cover for absent employees (such as those who are on maternity or disability leave) and temporary vacancies, or to fill gaps in a company's workforce. Temporary employees may be hired directly or through a temporary staffing agency — in which case the temp is on lease with the staffing company, but is not an employee of the client company that uses its services. Temporary agencies typically charge clients 15 to 30% more than the amount of compensation given to the temp employee, though some temporary employees may wish to negotiate their hourly rate.

Temporary employees may be hired to perform work in a range of industries such as:

  • clerical
  • labor
  • education
  • information technology
  • healthcare

Some temporary jobs may lead to permanent employment where appropriate, in which case the temp agency may charge the employer a fee. More often, 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, and may work for more than one agency at a time. Although not typically eligible for company benefits, some temporary agencies offer health care and other benefits to their temp employees. In an economic downturn, temporary employees are often the first to go, making it a less than ideal job when it comes to job security.

Finally, in some states, companies that hire temporary employees may be subject to federal discrimination and harassment challenges and other claims. In addition, the circumstances in which temporary employees may claim rights under the Family Medical Leave Act — which provides the right to take leave while taking care of a child, sick spouse, or elderly parent — depends on whether the company exercised some control over the selection, hiring, and working conditions of the employee, thereby creating an employee/employer relationship.

Seasonal Employees

Generally, seasonal employees are hired by companies that need extra help during a particular season, such as the Christmas season. For example, large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy hire thousands of seasonal employees each year to account for the increased shopping demands of the season. Seasonal employees may be hired within several industries, such as retail, hospitality, customer service, shipping/handling, and sales. Seasonal employees are usually hired on a part-time basis, but are entitled to minimum wage and overtime.

Seasonal jobs can offer out-of-work employees the opportunity to earn income to pay down bills, for example, or earn money for holiday gift giving. Additionally, since many seasonal jobs can be performed on evenings and weekends, regular employees can earn a second income for a certain period of time as a seasonal employee.

Tipped Employees

It is worth noting that tipped employees — workers who regularly receive more that thirty dollars per month in tips — operate under a unique set of rules, regardless of their full-time, part-time, or temporary worker status. Since these rules can be complex, FindLaw has a separate page on the rights of tipped employee under the FLSA, a federal law.

Laws concerning employee treatment, benefits, and policies of part-time, temporary, or seasonal employees are covered by both federal and state laws. To learn more about employee rights, benefits, and policies as they may apply to your specific case, check your state's employment laws.

Are Your Employment Rights Being Violated? Get Legal Help

There are certain laws and regulations applicable to different types of workers, such as seasonal, temporary, or part-time employees. If you believe you've been denied rights based on your employment status, you should start by talking to your immediate supervisor. If that fails to resolve the issue, you may need to meet with an 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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