Seasonal Employment Laws: Avoid These Seasonal Worker Violations, Courtesy of Santa’s Workshop

By PrismHR

Hiring seasonal workers, or changing up your practices during the holiday season can open you up to unexpected risks if you’re not up-to-date on seasonal employment laws. Keep your company off the naughty list by avoiding these common seasonal employee missteps with your own workers.

Learn what to look for in this “cautionary tale” of seasonal employement laws, featuring examples from that famous toy workshop up North:

Citation & Notification of Penalties – for Violations of Seasonal Employment Laws

Santa Clause gets arrested

Company Name: Kris R. Kringle & Associates
Inspection Site: Santa’s Workshop, North Pole, 99705

Citation 1, Overtime Pay for Seasonal Employees

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

The North Pole elves have been making toys around the clock since November 1—putting in excess of 150 hours a week being holly and jolly—while being paid only their standard amounts of chocolate covered coins and peppermints.

It isn’t illegal to work your elves around the clock. As long as the employee is 16-years-old or older, federal law does not actually limit the number of hours per day or days per week a seasonal employee can work, or even require you to give them holidays off! (Good news for Mr. Scrooge.)

Many states have requirements for days off after consecutive work, however, and federal law says you must pay all elves and humans time and a half pay for working in excess of 40 hours in any given workweek—including seasonal workers.

Citation 2, Child Labor Laws

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

Child labor laws apply to seasonal employees, even if Santa sometimes ignores this.

Underage North Pole elves appear to be working the same hours as adult elves. (Indeed, difficult for this inspector to discern the difference without requesting ID.) Noted elves of all ages (I think) at late night caroling, decking halls and demanding figgy pudding. (Frequently won’t go until they get some.) 

Many seasonal businesses fill out their temporary employee needs by hiring teenagers to help out during the holidays. But you should be aware that children between 14-15 years old may only work outside of school hours, between 7:00am and 7:00pm in the winter. They must limit work to only up to 3 hours per day, and a total of 18 hours during a school week. On non-school days they can deck the halls for up to 8 hours a day, and 40 hours a week.

Want to help your business avoid issues complying with seasonal employment laws?

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Citation 3, Seasonal Employee Classification

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

Think this cat in a reindeer hat looks grumpy?  That's how you'll feel if you face penalties for violations of seasonal employment laws.

Eight flying reindeer currently being classified incorrectly as independent contractors. Exception: one roving red-nosed reindeer—used only in foggy Christmas eves—is properly designated.

Make sure you are properly classifying seasonal workers as either temporary workers or independent contractors—depending on their degree of control and independence.

There are significant differences between these classifications that every employer should understand long before any sleighs take off.

Citation 4, Long-Time Seasonal Employee Designation

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

Seasonal employees need to adhere to a maximum of 30 hours per week over a period of more than 120 days.

Based on consistent nose-nipping weather dating back to early October, have noted that seasonal employee Jack Frost should be receiving full health insurance benefits.

According to federal law, seasonal workers are not required to receive the same benefits as standard, full-time employees. However, when your seasonal employees work in excess of 30 hours per week, over a period of more than 120 days, you are most likely required to offer health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Check with your attorney or HR service provider to be sure you’ve properly covered all eligible seasonal workers.

Citation 5, OSHA for Home Workers

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

OSHA laws apply to seasonal workers, even this gingerbread man with a broken leg.

Observed multiple health and safety violations for at-home worker Mrs Claus—including cookie cutting utensils and unsafe gingerbread structures—not consistent with a healthy and safe work environment.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) you must provide a safe workplace to all of your employees—even when they are working at home.

Many businesses bring in seasonal workers to deal with increased holiday call volume or other tasks that can be completed at home, but be aware that with many types of temporary workers, businesses can be held responsible for unsafe working conditions—wherever they may be. 

Citation 6, Temporary Workforce

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

Temporary workers can cross you into a threshhold that can change your legal status as an employer, especially if you hire a bunch of lazy puppies in Santa hats.

By adding a large contingent workforce comprised of Misfit Toys, Santa’s Workshop nearly doubled its payroll for more than 120 days in the season—and must therefore offer benefits in concordance with its expanded size.

Be careful if you are taking on a large group of seasonal employees for any longer length of time—those additions might just change your status as an employer. How many hours do seasonal employees work? Crossing the threshold of 15, 20, 25 or 50 full-time equivalent employees means different employment laws apply to your business at the state or federal level.

For instance, if your temporary employee is your 50th, you must offer minimum essential health coverage. This means a seasonal employee who works at least 30 hours a week (or two employees who work a combined 30 hours a week). Luckily, seasonal workers you hire for less than 120 days employees do not count toward this total, so this only applies to temporary employees who you hire for more than a few months.

Citation 7, Withholding

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

Seasonal employees are treated the same as any other employee for the purposes of taxation and federal, state and local payroll withholding laws.

Seasonal snowman worker with magic hat being paid in cash with no tax or social security withholding. (Claims he has no social security number as he simply “came to life one day”.)

No matter when they came to life, seasonal workers should be treated the same as any other employee for the purposes of taxation and federal, state and local payroll withholding.

Employers should be withholding for all income taxes, along with Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), Social Security, Medicare, and any other applicable taxes.

Citation 8, Minimum Wage Laws

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

Minimum wage laws apply to temporary workers the same as they apply to permanent workers.  Even if that worker is a small dog pulling around your sled during the holiday season.

Large green manager with small heart (currently two sizes too small) paying employee only in dog bones and tiny Santa suits.

Pulling the Grinch’s sled is no joke. But even when the job is a small one, there are no special pay laws or rates for seasonal jobs. You must follow federal, state and/or local minimum requirements with your holiday workers.

Seasonal workers are under the same legal protections as full-time, permanent employees. The current federal minimum wage (as of this writing in December, 2019) is $7.25 per hour but this ranges up to the highest minimum wage of $16.30 in Emoryville, CA. But these ranges are subject to change, so make sure you stay up to date on employment laws related to minimum wage for all of your employees – both temporary and permanent.

Citation 9, Hot Cocoa

Type of Violation: SERIOUS

Dogs drinking hot chocolate are an often-overlooked category of seasonal employees.

No plain or peppermint hot chocolate made available in breakroom.

In a seasonal employment law specific to the North Pole, hot cocoa in some form—with choice of marshmallows or whipped cream—should be provided in the breakroom at all times. This should be non-negotiable.

Okay, that last violation wasn’t for real (though some of our editors think it SHOULD be) but every other item on this list is something companies routinely get wrong with their seasonal—and even year-round—workforces. Making sure your business adheres to both state and federal seasonal employment laws is critical to avoiding the risk of fines and penalities.

A good HR service provider can help you to anticipate these concerns as your company grows for the season, and keep you out of trouble and on the Nice List with federal, state and local authorities.

Want to learn more about full-service HR outsourcing solutions so you can stop worrying about compliance issues?

We can help you find an HR service provider to help you reduce risk and avoid employee compliance fines.

Learn more