By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As the holiday season approaches, the New York State Attorney General has issued an advisory for seasonal employees who are hired on a temporary, and often part-time, basis to handle the demands of holiday shoppers.
Although an employee may not be a full-time worker or only assigned to a job from now through January, New York’s labor laws protect workers all year around, despite seasonal status. “It’s important for people picking up part-time work this holiday season to understand their rights and make sure they are safe and protected,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Employees have the right to work in safe conditions that do not put them at risk of accident or serious illness. On Black Friday, the shopping day the Friday after Thanksgiving, many retail stores offer extreme sales and draw massive crowds. In order to cause a swell of consumers, retailers often hold the sales for short-time intervals, causing shoppers to race for a good deal.
But Black Friday poses a danger to the retail employees. In 2008, for example, a mob of unruly shoppers trampled a temporary Walmart employee to death in Valley Stream, Long Island. “If [an employee] get[s] injured, [they] have the right to file a workers' compensation claim to have…medical expenses covered and lost time from work paid,” Schneiderman advised.
Employees are also entitled to call-in pay when there is not enough work. New York law requires that employers pay their employees for working at least four hours or their regularly scheduled shift. If, for example, an employee is scheduled to work for six hours but is sent home because of a lack of work, the employee must be paid for at least four hours of work.
“Employees, even on a seasonal basis, have the same rights as regular employees,” Brooklyn employment lawyer Allen Tishman told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “They can’t be fired for improper reasons.”
Child labor laws are also in effect despite the seasonal nature of an employee. Children under 18 must, in most circumstances, be given working papers from their high school before securing seasonal employment. Further, minors are restricted in the types of services they can provide and the employment they can seek. Federal and state law prevents minors from working on construction sites, in slaughterhouses or with motor vehicles, with some exceptions.
Schneiderman also advises that minimum wage and overtime law applies to seasonal workers in the same fashion that it applies to full-time employees. New York’s minimum wage for non-tipped employees is $7.25 per hour for most workers — with an increase to $8 an hour scheduled for January 2014. Employees who work for tips may receive a lower hourly wage, but the wage plus tips must equal, at the very least, the state’s minimum wage requirement.
“Seasonal employees are not a second-class type of citizen,” Tishman said. “The job will end when the season is over, but they are still entitled to the same protections as non-seasonal workers.”