With the arrival of the bustling holiday season, businesses are scrambling to add additional staff members to assist in daily operations. These staff members, or individuals working with a particular employer for less than 120 days, are referred to by some as seasonal employees. Many companies, however, classify such persons as independent contractors so as to avoid laws relating to minimum wage, overtime pay, anti-discrimination and medical leave. An employer of an independent contractor, in addition, is not required to pay payroll taxes and is issued a 1099 as opposed to a W-2. Because of this, many companies opt to categorize seasonal workers as independent contractors. It is important to note, however, that the employer does not have absolute control over such classification and instead must adhere to the United States Department of Labor’s guidelines.
In general, independent contractors are defined as individuals who bring their own tools to the job site, have control over how the job should be completed, set their own hours, have the ability to hire additional help and are not employed indefinitely. The confusion between the two titles has generated several lawsuits over the years, so it is crucial to understand that the roles are not interchangeable.
Here in Florida, the minimum wage is $8.10 per hour, and seasonal employees have the right, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to earn at least this baseline pay during their employment. This act also ensures that seasonal employees have the right to earn time-and-a-half for overtime hours worked as well as be paid for pre-shift and post-shift duties. FLSA also requires that every employee, regardless of his or her standing within the company, be promptly compensated following the end of a regular pay period.
With just a quick search on job sites like Indeed, one can see that brick and mortar chains offer the majority of seasonal employment opportunities here in Gainesville, especially retail stores in The Oaks Mall and those along Archer Road. Some area businesses, however, have programs that allow them to rely on current employees, as opposed to new ones, for the holiday season. Original American Kitchen (OAK), located on 15 SE 1st Ave, is one of these.
“We actually have programs in place for our current employees to be able to take the time off [that] they need for the holiday season [while] the business [still] has the amount of staff needed,” said Tony Thomas from OAK.
With Gainesville being a college town and OAK primarily employing college students, many patrons and employees leave the city to return home during the holiday break. While this could certainly cause some issues in staffing, OAK has created a process to prevent any staffing problems.
“We have a majority of our staff in college, but they understand when they are hired that we have a business to maintain and run and so they get to choose one of two time blocks off for the holidays,” Thomas said. “We have a lot of clientele that leave to go home for the holidays, visit loved ones out of Gainesville or go on vacation, so that also enables us to schedule less staff each day than we normally would. I know with retail operations they hire seasonally, but fortunately for us we have things worked out well and do not have to do any hiring for the holidays.”
By Haley Clement