Seasonal Employees…and the Well-Seasoned Employee

Mark T. Broth

Federal and state laws establish certain minimum standards for compensating employees.  These include minimum wage and overtime requirements, rules regarding the frequency of pay, and rules requiring records of hours worked and notice to employees of their compensation and any changes to their pay and benefits.  However, the other terms under which employees are hired, including the frequency and duration of employment, largely remain a matter left to the discretion of employers. 

For purposes of personnel administration, employers generally describe employees as falling into one of four categories:  full-time; part-time; temporary; and casual employees. 

Full-time employees are those who are employed on a year round basis and who regularly work a minimum number of hours defined by the employer (commonly 37.5 or 40 hours for full-time employees). 

Part-time employees also generally work on a year round basis, but regularly work less than the number of hours that the employer has established for full-time employment. 

Temporary employees are those who are hired for a predetermined period of time (which can vary from a few weeks to several years) or through the completion of a project (for example, an employee hired for the duration of a road paving project).  Temporary employees work whatever number of hours the employer deems necessary.

Casual employees are those who are employed on a day to day, as needed basis.  Casual employees generally do not have a fixed work schedule and work whatever hours the employer deems necessary.  Special police officers and non-volunteer call firefighters (they only work when needed) are examples of casual employees. 

Employees in each of these categories must receive at least the minimum wage.  All employees can be paid on either an hourly, salary, or per diem basis.  Regardless of how employees are paid, those who work in excess of 40 hours in a pay week (with the exception of police, fire and EMS) must receive overtime pay unless they are exempt from the overtime law.  In general, employees are exempt if they are salaried and if their duties fall within the executive, administrative, or professional exemptions from the overtime law.

So what are “seasonal employees”?  Generally, seasonal employees are temporary employees hired for a predetermined period of time, usually defined as a calendar season or other defined seasons which may vary in length.  Like other temporary employees, seasonal employees can work full or part-time hours, and may be overtime eligible if they are paid hourly and work more than 40 hours in a pay week.

It is common for employers to make different levels of benefits available to different employee classifications.  Problems can arise if employers blur the distinctions between classifications.  For example, assume that an employer offers health insurance to full time employees, but not to part time or temporary employees.  An employee is hired as a part time employee, but is regularly expected to work full time hours; is this employee eligible to receive health insurance benefits?  Generally, courts have held that the actual conditions of employment define classification, not the label placed on the employee at the time of hire.  The same can be true with temporary/seasonal employees.  If the same employee is hired to work continuously through every season, with no interruption, how are they really distinguished from full time or regular part-time employees?  These problems are avoided by primarily keeping employee work hours and periods of employment consistent with how the classification is defined.

“Well-seasoned” is just another way to refer to older workers.  In this period of low unemployment and declining labor pools, older workers are an often overlooked resource.  Senior employees are often the repository of institutional memory, “as built” information, and time tested techniques and methods for efficient and economical performance of job functions.  Throughout the course of employment, employers make significant investment in employee training and education.  When an older worker departs, most of that investment is lost.  Employers can longer benefit from those investments by repurposing older workers who might no longer be able to meet all of the elements of a job description.  Using older workers as trainers, front line supervisors, or offering reduced schedules or job sharing arrangements are all means by which employers can extend an employee’s work life.  Employers experiencing difficulty recruiting new employees should consider meeting with its well-seasoned workforce to explore how job functions and organizational structures might be modified so that both employee and employer can benefit from an extended work life. 

Mark Broth is a member of DrummondWoodsum’s Labor and Employment Group.  His practice focuses on the representation of private and public employers in all aspects of the employer-employee relationship.  This is not a legal document nor is it intended to serve as legal advice or a legal opinion.  Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon, P.A. makes no representations that this is a complete or final description or procedure that would ensure legal compliance and does not intend that the reader should rely on it as such. “Copyright 2018 Drummond Woodsum.  These materials may not be reproduced without prior written permission.”