While Summer is Fleeting, Lawsuits are Not….Train Seasonal Employees

Contributed by Julie Proscia

Many employers forget to train summer employees on their company’s workplace policies, procedures and safety rules. Unfortunately, just because the employee is “seasonal” does not mean that you are free from liability. Employers are just as liable for the actions of summer employees that occur in the workplace as they are for full-time regular employees. It is not too late to train your summer help!

Summer employees are more apt than a full-time employee to gloss over the employee handbook. While it is important to have policy and rule information in the handbook, it is always good to provide in-person training to new hires, including summer or seasonal help. It is uncomfortable at best to argue to a judge that a sixteen year old employee should have  known, based on the 100-page handbook, who to call when their supervisor got grabby…awkward.

A summer job is a right of passage for young adults. Responsibility is a good thing, however, as with every good thing there are certain perils that emerge. Because a summer job is frequently the first time that a young adult has worked outside of the home, the young adult does not have the years of experience behind him or her to understand what is appropriate behavior in the work place. What is “okay” on a Friday night with friends is not “okay” at the office. As such, train employees on what behavior they should and should not be engaging in, as well as what type of behavior is unacceptable from others. Sexual harassment and discrimination training are pivotal in establishing boundaries of appropriate behavior and the proper channels for inquiring about potentially inappropriate behavior. 

Just as harassment and discrimination training are important for the morale and health of the team, safety training is important for the physical well being of all employees. Frequently employers neglect to train seasonal employees on equipment and safety rules. The oversight is almost never intentional; rather it is a matter of time constraints and/or the belief that the seasonal employee will be there too short of a time to use the equipment. However, a few minutes, much less a few months on the job, is more than enough time for an accident to occur. Train all employees, including your seasonal staff, on the safety rules of the department and make very clear the areas that are dangerous and explain the nature of the danger. Reiterate that all employees have to follow all of the organization’s safety procedures, regardless of how cumbersome they may appear, and that all employees must report any injury or accident immediately.

Time moves quick, one minute it is Memorial Day and the next it will be the Fourth of July – training summer help is the last thing that an employer has time for…well, no, the last thing would be the law suit that emerges from the injury that occurred when seasonal employees are not properly trained. Take the hour and save yourself some time and heartache and expense later.