A Word about Seasonal Workers

Holiday workersTis the season to be jolly! Welcome to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Along with the season of lights and merriment, comes increased employment opportunities for people who are looking for seasonal employment. Many Mainers sign on for these jobs as a way to make ends meet. While it can add an additional stress and time commitment, the additional work is often crucial for many families to manage life’s necessities such as the cost of heat, food and shelter.

If you are a seasonal worker, you have many of the same rights as permanent workers. Here are some of your rights:

  • You have the right to work free from harassment and discrimination.
  • You have the right to work in a safe workplace.
  • You have the right to receive overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours a week; the only exception would be if you are being paid on commission.
  • You have the right to be paid at least minimum wage.

Some other items you should understand are:

  • If you work 10 weeks or less, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Your employer is still required to withhold part of your Social Security and Medicare taxes and pay a matching amount.
  • Your employer is still required to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage.
  • Other fringe benefits such as paid leave or medical insurance are up to the employer. Businesses are not required to offer you those benefits.

Lastly, most people don’t understand that seasonal holiday work is typically very stressful. If you’ve ever been in the mall during December, you know just how busy it can be! Trying to manage the high customer demand while quickly learning a new position can be daunting.  So even though a position may be limited in duration, it may not be limited in stress or pressure.

With new, fast-paced, stressful jobs, it is easy to get injured. If that happens, you should report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. If this injury prevents you from working at either your primary place of employment or the second position you took on, you are entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits. The amount of the benefits you receive will be based on what your wage was at the time of the injury. That benefit includes both your wages at your primary position as well as the wages from the second place of employment. Hopefully you won’t need to deal with workers’ compensation, but you should know it is available for you should you require it.

This holiday season, we ask all Mainers to be kind and fair to seasonal employees and understand the difficulty of their work. Imagine yourself standing in their tired shoes before you complain about waiting in line.

About the author: Karen Bilodeau is an attorney and partner at the workers’ rights law firm McTeague Higbee. She can be reached at kbilodeau@mcteaguehigbee.com or at 207-725-5581.

Karen Bilodeau

About Karen Bilodeau

Karen is an attorney and partner at the workers' rights law firm McTeague Higbee. A cum laude graduate of the University of Maine School of Law and a magna cum laude Bates College graduate, Karen brings passion and caring to every case she handles. Throughout her career she has found incredible satisfaction in giving clients a voice - and helping get their lives back on track - by standing with them and guiding them through the legal process. Karen is a member of the Maine State Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, the Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group and the Maine Employment Lawyers Association.