• Holiday Hiring: 'Tis the Season to Be Careful!
  • December 10, 2009 | Author: Alan G. Lesnewich
  • Law Firm: Fisher & Phillips LLP - Murray Hill Office
  • Many companies need to take on extra help around the holidays, retail stores more so than most. Poor hiring decisions this holiday season could have repercussions on employers and turn a profitable season into a costly discrimination lawsuit. Well-planned hiring practices that comply with federal, state and local employment laws can help ensure that seasonal employees are well-suited for the job, and that the company is in a position to defend any possible claims. Here are six tips to ensure success and keep the peace in your workplace.

    1. Carefully Review Application Materials

    Avoid becoming an employer who in the midst of litigation concludes "if I had only reviewed the application more carefully." Meticulously examining applications will alert you to significant gaps in employment history. "Victim-like" responses to questions about why the employee left prior jobs and questions left might tell a story. A prudent employer should spend time reviewing these materials.

    2. Listen To The Applicant

    Applicants for seasonal employment need to be interviewed thoroughly. Ask prospects to clarify any unclear information on their applications, which allows you to test applicants' truthfulness and gain more insight into their personalities, character and motivation. The goal of the interview should not be to sell the applicant on the job, but to gather details about the person's employment history by listening. And, of course, remember not to ask unlawful questions about age, ancestry, religion or other protected categories.

    3. Check References

    Be sure to check references. One short telephone call might provide information that can save your company time, money and a lawsuit.

    4. Use An Offer Letter

    Even with seasonal employees, the first line of defense against claims can be a signed offer letter. The use of a short, customized letter can help prevent wrongful termination claims. The applicant's signature verifies the candidate's understanding of the terms of employment and the limited maximum duration of the job. This small step can provide important evidence in the event of a lawsuit.

    Also, if seasonal employees will have access to confidential information, require them to sign a non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement.

    5. All The Usual Rules Apply

    Inform seasonal employees that the company does not tolerate discrimination or retaliation and have them sign an acknowledgement documenting they have been advised. That goes for state laws, too. For example, in New Jersey, all full-time employees must be provided with a notice regarding the state's "whistleblower" law. Many other states have similar requirements.

    Remember, even though temporary, each person hired must complete the necessary I-9 forms, and minors must have all required permits.

    Be sure that seasonal employees are properly classified and that all federal and state wage-and-hour laws are followed during the holiday season. Make certain that you provide all required breaks, especially to minors, and that overtime is accurately recorded and paid.

    6. Check Your Benefits Policies

    Review your benefits policies to determine if seasonal employees are included. Failure to provide required benefits can lead to expensive consequences.

    These suggestions are just a few actions employers should consider in preparing for what already promises to be a busy and stressful season. Implementing this prep-work in advance can help minimize unnecessary "to-dos" this holiday season, and avoid a potential holiday "hangover" for employers hiring seasonal staff.