The “Permanence” of Seasonal Workers

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(DGIwire)  Whether it’s summer event promotions or temporary holiday work, many contingent workers look forward to seasonal jobs because they can make a significant income in a matter of weeks. This is especially attractive to college students home for breaks, people who are retired and want to boost their income, or anyone undergoing a change of lifestyle who doesn’t want to be tied down to a full career.

Unfortunately, some employers have been under scrutiny for taking advantage of or even mistreating their contingent workers. Contingent work, also known as casual work, refers to a temporary employment situation. Typically it encompasses project-based freelance positions, part-time jobs, and any other positions where there is no job security. During summers and holiday seasons especially, the contingent workforce swells due to the high demand for certain jobs, including summer camp positions, landscaping, snow removal, and shipping and gifting, among others. For example, Amazon, the ubiquitous online retailer, hired 80,000 workers for the 2014 holiday season to meet their labor demand, according to a 2014 article in The Guardian.

The article stated that Amazon’s temporary workers slogged grueling 10- to 12-hour shifts, which keep them on their feet and walking five to 10 miles a day with only two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch break. While their advertisements promised “up to $14 an hour,” Amazon only paid its workers an average rate of $11 an hour. After their shifts were over, and after they clocked out, workers were made to spend nearly 30 minutes every day standing in line for a security check to ensure that no items from Amazon’s inventory were stolen—time employees were not paid for. In fact, some of these employees became so disgruntled over this unpaid waiting time that they filed a lawsuit against Amazon. Unfortunately, the law was not on the side of these workers. The Guardian article states that the “employment at will” legal nature of employment leaves the workers without recourse; the Amazon practice was just on the right side of the law.

“All workers, even temporary or seasonal ones, have rights,” explains Rebecca Cenni, CEO of Atrium Staffing.  “Companies are legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage, offer regular breaks and pay overtime in accordance with state regulations. Unfortunately, when it comes to seasonal workers, sometimes shortcuts are taken—a lack of safety training or incorrectly reported hours, whether purposeful or accidental, are all too common. Either of these practices can cause major problems with the government and your employees, and can even potentially ruin your company’s reputation in the media. Large companies that rely on a strong contingent workforce during any time of the year need to make sure their processes to do so are in order—otherwise, what was a blip on the radar can become a long-suffering legal or PR nightmare.”

As CEO of Atrium, Cenni is well aware of how to manage a contingent workforce. Based in New York City, Atrium is focused on providing contingent workforce management services for mid-size and Fortune 500 companies in nearly every industry. Atrium’s expertise includes regional Temporary and Direct Hire Staffing, national Employer of Record Payrolling, national Independent Contractor Engagement and specialty Intern Recruiting Services.