With summer around the corner, it’s not too early to make sure that your employee handbook and workplace policies adequately address issues involving interns, seasonal workers, time off and more. To reduce the risk of a lawsuit, here are five types of workplace policies that may need a refresher before summer:
Interns and Seasonal Workers
If an employer uses the help of interns or seasonal workers during the summer, its workplace policies should comply with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations and ensure that these individuals are properly paid and provided with overtime for all hours worked. Employers using the help of under-age interns should also make sure that their policies comply with the laws regarding meal and rest breaks, work permits and hours restrictions for minors.
It’s also important to extend discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies to interns and seasonal workers and maintain a harassment-free workplace. This is especially true in light of recent state and municipal laws making employers specifically liable for discrimination and harassment against interns.
In addition, the determination of whether an individual is a seasonal employee also figures into whether an employer is an “applicable large employer” (ALE) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with 50 or more employees.
Dress Code and Grooming
A summer dress code policy is an inexpensive way to improve employee morale and make employees feel more comfortable when warmer weather hits. It is best to specifically indicate what types of clothing will be appropriate (i.e., no flip flops or tank tops). The employer should make sure that employees receive notice of the policy and whether it is in effect every day or only on Fridays.
Similarly, a hygiene and grooming policy can promote good health and a clean image, especially during summer months when it is warm out. Dress code and grooming policies should be applied uniformly unless there is a need for some sort of religious accommodation. Further, an employer may limit the chance of a sexual harassment claim by banning clothing that is too low cut or revealing and inappropriate for the workplace.
Also, keep in mind that dress code and grooming policies imposing an unequal burden on men and women may lead to a sex discrimination claim.
Wages, Hours and Attendance
Wage and hour policies as well as attendance policies should cover issues that may arise during the summer such as those associated with:
• Employer-sponsored summer events;
• Office outings; and
• Time off.
While company-sponsored summer outings may be a great way to show employees appreciation and encourage camaraderie, employees who are non-exempt for overtime purposes should be compensated for attendance if the outing is after work hours and mandatory. Otherwise, attendance should be voluntary or the event should be held during normal business hours.
Additionally, while an employer may want to consider offering summer Fridays (allowing employees to take all or half of Fridays off to boost morale), it must consider whether an employee is exempt or nonexempt from overtime before docking the employee’s pay for the time off or forcing employees to use vacation days.
An employer should also make sure that its PTO or summer vacation policies are adequately communicated to all employees and applied uniformly.
Health and Safety
When the temperature outside spikes, it is important to maintain policies providing rest and water breaks that protect employee health and safety and prevent various heat-related medical issues (i.e., sunburn, sunstroke, heat stroke heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash).
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will fine employers who fail to take appropriate measures to protect employees from the heat. Thus, an employer should provide employees and supervisors with relevant policies as well as proper OSHA notices addressing these issues. An employer also may want to consider taking precautions and setting up shaded areas or cooling sites and shutting down during a heat wave where conditions prove too dangerous.
Summer may be a time when employees have a greater interest in telecommuting, working flexible schedules or compressed work weeks in order to spend more time with their family, watch children home during the summer or otherwise improve work/life balance during nicer weather.
However, if an employer permits telecommuting, it should be sure to establish a comprehensive policy requiring employees to record time actually spent working. An employer should also be sure to outline appropriate guidelines and expectations for telecommuting.
What’s the number one summer workplace issue bedeviling your company? Let us know by leaving a comment below.