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Summertime … And the Livin’s Litigious

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in HR Soapbox

summer workStudies show that as the temperature rises, the potential for employment law problems heats up in the workplace.

Why? Companies face more leave-related disputes as employees want to hit the road. Skimpy summer fashions prompt more sexual harassment claims. And the hiring of many part-time teen workers who are unfamiliar with your culture and policies can trigger more complaints.
What should employers do? Employment law firm Fisher & Phillips offers this five-point to-do list for summer:

1. Plan ahead for vacation requests. Poorly managed, summer vacation requests can leave employers short-staffed. To avoid problems, make sure your employee handbook and vacation policy clearly state that all vacation requests must be made in advance, must be approved by management and may be denied if granting the request would create a hardship on the company. Clarify the rules on how vacation requests are approved.

2. Prevent harassment in the hot summer sun. In the summer months, skirts often get shorter, tops get tighter and flip-flops become the footwear of choice in some workplaces. If you’re considering a relaxed summer dress code, anticipate the possibility that revealing attire might generate inappropriate comments and behavior. Remind employees of your anti-harassment policy and other employee conduct rules. Clarify what you mean by "business casual." And consistently enforce your dress and grooming policies.

3. Lessen liability when hiring seasonal workers. Seasonal and temp employees demand special hiring considerations. Bungle the hiring process, and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. For example, job advertisements should state that the position is a temporary one. Don’t guarantee a specific length of employment. In addition, if you’re hiring people to work on a holiday or odd hours, you should say so up front. 

4. Know child labor issues. Hiring workers under the age of 18 means complying with strict child-labor laws. There are limitations on work hours or the number of hours worked within a specific time period. Some hazardous jobs are off-limits to underage workers. To learn more, review the federal law and your state laws on the number of hours that teens can work and what jobs they can perform.

5. Prepare for summer ‘sick’ days. Strange how many employees don’t feel well on the prettiest of days. To prevent the “summer flu,” reinforce your policy requiring employees to provide doctors' notes for unexpected illnesses. Be sure to enforce it in a consistent manner.

Photo credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-08112, via Wikimedia Commons

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