It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While the holiday season certainly brings joy, it can also cause employers a lot of stress – particularly with respect to wage and hour issues that can arise. Avoid this unwanted holiday headache by keeping an eye out for the following wage and hour challenges that can arise during the holiday season:
- Holiday Parties Could Be Considered Working Time.
Everyone enjoys a good party and the holiday season presents a good reason to celebrate a profitable year and boost employee morale. However, to avoid a potential wage and hour issue, employers need to exercise caution with scheduling and communicating with employees about the holiday party.
Under most state laws, a holiday party that is scheduled during an employee’s regular working hours is considered working time; therefore, employees must receive compensation if they attend the party. In addition, if an employee is required to attend a holiday party (or made to feel that they are required to attend – e.g. through a manager’s encouragement), the time an employee spends at the party can also be considered compensable.
To avoid these issues, schedule the holiday party outside of regular working hours (and consider holding it in an offsite location). In addition, make it abundantly clear to your nonexempt employees that attendance at the party is 100% voluntary.
- Special Holiday-Related State Wage and Hour Laws
While under federal law (the FLSA) employers are not required to provide any time off or additional compensation (i.e. holiday pay) to employees during the holiday season, there are laws in some states that impose special requirements on employers.
For example, a few states require certain types of employers to provide employees with time off on specific days (i.e. Christmas and New Year’s Day). Other states require that certain employers pay employees overtime if they are required to work on specific holidays (i.e. Christmas and New Year’s Day) – regardless of the amount of time worked by the employee in that week.
In addition, several states have “day of rest laws” where employers are required to provide a day of rest, which require an employer to provide employees with a day of rest on their Sabbath or when they have worked a certain number of hours or days in a row. Due to the busyness of the holiday season, an employee’s work schedule can violate a state’s day of rest law.
Finally, some states have enacted “reporting time laws” (where an employer must pay an employee additional wages if he/she shows up for work and is not provided a full shift of work) and several large cities (San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and, New York City) have enacted “scheduling laws” (which limit how and when employers can change employees’ schedules). Due to the unpredictable nature of the holidays, employers should be aware of these laws and exercise caution when scheduling employees for the holidays – otherwise they run the risk of wage and hour penalties.