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Preparing for holiday-related employment challenges

‘Tis the season to hire workers for the holiday and winter seasons. It is also time to prepare part-time and full-time workers for challenges unique to the holiday season. From an employment law standpoint, both employers and employees can benefit from understanding how this time of year uniquely impacts the workforce. By being prepared, both employers and employees can avoid legal headaches sure to put a damper on the joy of the season.

First, it is important to understand that private employers are not legally obligated to recognize any religious holidays your workers may celebrate. However, federal law does require private employers to reasonably accommodate their workers’ religious practices. Meaningfully, this essentially requires you to accommodate time off for religious holidays unless doing so would burden you with undue hardship. This rule generally applies to all religious faiths, so it is important to accommodate individuals who may celebrate federal holidays like Christmas and non-federal holidays like Hanukkah.

Second, it is important to understand that employers are not required to pay workers extra if they work on a holiday, unless those workers’ contracts are impacted by provisions to the contrary. Individuals whose employment is governed by a collective bargaining agreement may also be entitled to extra holiday pay, but in general no such requirement exists on the federal level.

Finally, it is important for employers and seasonal workers to understand their overtime wage structures. Some seasonal employees may not be entitled to increased rates of pay for overtime work, while others may be. Rules on this issue tend to vary by state and understanding them is key to avoiding improper wage allocations.

Source: Findlaw Free Enterprise, “A Business Owner's Legal Guide to the Holidays,” Daniel Taylor, Nov. 17, 2014

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