Once again, that special time of year is upon us. The parties, presents and packages take center stage as we wind down our year and gear up for the next. With the seasonal fun comes the annual hustle and bustle to buy the perfect gift and get it to its destination. It’s that hustle and bustle that creates changes in the workforce. Employees often pick up extra shifts or an additional seasonal job during this end-of-the year rush, highlighting the importance of knowing employee legal protections.
For businesses, this is often their busiest time of year. The United States Postal Service is expecting to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail this season, a 10 percent increase from the last, and will have to hire additional employees to meet the temporary demand. UPS and FedEx are in the same boat. UPS plans to hire roughly 95,000 temporary workers, and FedEx is planning to add more than 50,000 seasonal workers to its payroll.
As for retail stores, Target plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers, and even though it has filed for bankruptcy, Toys R Us is hiring 12,000 part-time workers. In a break from previous years, Wal-Mart has opted this year to increase the hours of its part-time staff up to 40 hours a week in order to meet the holiday demand.
According to The Washington Post, the move comes as a way to reduce criticism about keeping employees from full-time work and reduces the costs of hiring and training a temporary workforce. Of course, the new policy has raised questions about its implementation. As Randy Parraz, director of Making Change at Walmart, told The Post, “It’s one thing to offer more hours. It’s another thing to mandate them.”
With the workforce changes occurring during the holidays, what laws come into play? The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) “establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It sets the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour and dictates that overtime pay is no less than one and one-half times employees’ regular pay for more than 40 hours of work a week. It even technically defines a workweek as a period of 168 hours during 7 consecutive 24-hour periods.
The FLSA covers most employees in America, including those hired as seasonal help, because it applies to workers engaged in interstate commerce, which clearly includes businesses where products are made or sold. But it also includes employees who work “in any closely related process or occupation directly essential to such production.” This can include communication employees, transportation employees and even employees who regularly use the mail or a telephone for interstate communication. However, some employees are classified as exempt from the minimum wage and/or overtime pay provisions. These can include executive, administrative and professional employees.
Some companies try to increase their profit margins by not properly paying overtime to qualifying employees, misclassifying employees to avoid paying overtime or not paying workers for time spent performing tasks they are required to do for work, such as putting on and taking off protective gear.
Unfortunately, misclassifying employees to avoid paying overtime and other work-arounds are far too common. All year – but especially during this season when people are picking up more shifts, extra hours and even extra jobs – it is important for employees to know they have rights under the FLSA.
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Leon Hampton is a lawyer in the Firm’s Consumer Fraud section. He works on cases involving class action lawsuits, employment law and whistleblower claims. For more information about FLSA laws or other issues of employment law, contact Leon at 800-898-2034 or email Leon.Hampton@beasleyallen.com.
The Washington Post
U.S. Department of Labor