Holiday hiring tips to avoid lawsuits

Atlanta Fisher & Phillips law firm released the following tips to avoid potential lawsuits when hiring temporary holiday help.

Tip No. 1: Be clear about the position from the outset. Job advertisements should state that the position is a temporary one, and employers should not guarantee a specific length of employment. In addition, communicate dress code requirements clearly as well as the dates and hours you expect the staff to be available to work. If you are hiring certain people to work on a holiday or at odd hours, you should say so up front.

Tip No. 2: Obey all break requirements and know the child labor issues. Even during the hectic holiday shopping days, retail employers must obey all overtime, meal and rest-period requirements for their nonexempt employees. In addition, many high school students start their first jobs in the retail industry. In-depth knowledge of the state’s child labor laws can safeguard employers against costly legal actions before they occur.

Tip No. 3: Properly classify employees. Most temporary holiday staff members won’t be exempt unless retailers are hiring management personnel. To be exempt from receiving overtime pay, meal periods and rest breaks, employees must meet certain wage requirements and fulfill certain duties. Simply paying an employee on a salary rather than hourly basis does not automatically make an employee “exempt.”

Tip No. 4: Ensure company handbook addresses compensation issues for those who work holidays. Employers are under no obligation to provide any additional compensation to employees who work on holidays such as Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. Company handbooks and other written policies should specify company expectations and communicate them clearly to employees. In fact, employers may implement handbooks and policies specifically for their temporary staff.

Tip No. 5: Be aware of necessary religious accommodations for staff. Some employees may not be available to work certain days due to their religious beliefs or require other accommodations in the workplace. Religious accommodations should be treated like disability or injury accommodations. Should the employer decide not to provide reasonable accommodation, the employer must show that it would pose undue hardship. During the hiring process, notify the applicant upfront regarding dates they may be scheduled or other requirements in order to help screen out potential problems before they arise.

Tip No. 6: Don’t overlook the importance of background checks. In general, it’s a good idea to do at least a criminal background check on all viable job applicants. Background screening firms will work with employers to comply with federal and state laws, and make recommendations as to the types of background checks necessary based upon the job’s requirements and duties. Remember that some of these temporary employees may become full-time staff, and communicating expectations is important.

Tip No. 7: Notify employees if surveillance cameras are watching. If surveillance cameras are on the property as part of a loss-prevention program or to heighten overall security, ensure that staff members are aware their actions may be caught on tape.

Tip No. 8: Know state laws about refusing to hire the unattractive. Many service- and sales-oriented businesses base their hiring practices largely on appearance -- believing the outward appearance of their employees will positively affect their bottom line. While it’s still generally legal to hire those who “look the part,” a few states have local ordinances or regulations that forbid discrimination on certain characteristics such as height or weight.