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4 Tips to Keep Your Business in Compliance During the Holiday Season

CoAdvantage- The holidays can be a fun time of year. It can also be incredibly stressful season; and in a year when employers are simultaneously facing a pandemic and may be short-staffed, it’s critical to be smart about how you manage your workforce during this period to stay in compliance with all relevant labor laws. Here are four major considerations that can help the holidays pass smoothly.

Overtime During the Holidays

Employers can force employees to work overtime during the holidays under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if the requirement doesn’t create safety hazards or would result in a violation of something like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). So, if your company is understaffed, it is legal to require remaining employees to work extra time. Employers can even terminate or discipline employees who refuse to work that time.

However, overtime compensation rules still apply. No federal law mandates holiday pay, but if working on a holiday leads a non-exempt employee to work more than 40 hours for the week, that employee must be paid overtime. By contrast, if a non-exempt employee does not work on a holiday, they are not owed anything. For more information, read our “Top 3 Holiday Overtime Compliance Questions Answered.

Time Off During the Holidays

No federal law mandates private employers to recognize federal holidays or to offer special holiday pay. Many employers do so as a benefit to employees and a way to boost morale, but it’s solely at the discretion of the employer. As a matter of practicality, it’s a good idea to require that requests for time off be submitted well in advance of the planned absences, and employers should establish a fair and equitable policy for handling requests, like first-come, first-serve. Just be sure to apply the same approval standard to all employees.

If short-staffed, consider backup options. Instead of time off, allow flex time. Giving employees the option of leaving early one day and working late another could give them the personal time they need without sacrificing work requirements. It might help to have a backup staffing service to fill any staffing gaps as well.

Required Holiday Events or Activities

Some employers get into the holiday spirit in a big way, but they need to be cautious about the requirements they impose on the workforce. For example, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers cannot force their employees to participate in specific religious practices that favor one religion over another. So, an employer that mandates that workers say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” may be in violation of Title VII. Worse, if they harass, or permit to be harassed, employees who refuse, they may be guilty of creating a hostile work environment.

Other Seasonal Considerations

For more information about other common issues during the holidays, including managing productivity lapses, stress, and absenteeism, read our article “Conquering the Biggest HR Holiday Challenges.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.