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Ask CJ – Hiring Seasonal Employees

Q: “I bought a seasonal business and I have hired employees for the first time.  What are the rules on summer/seasonal employees in regards to paying for overtime hours?”

A: When I was growing up, my dad worked in the sheet metal construction industry.  I became quite familiar with the labor laws as my dad would take advantage of any opportunities to work overtime as it meant he would be earning 1 ½ times his normal hourly wage for any time worked past his contracted 40 hour work week.  That meant a lot to a family with four kids and one wage earner.  He was also eligible for increased pay for working on holidays and took advantage of those occasional requests.  It would not have been the case if he had been working for a seasonal business.

NH Business Resource Center Seacoast Business Specialist Christine Davis

Summer is in full swing and many businesses that sat dormant over those cold winter months are now alive and bustling with activity.  Seasonal businesses include everything from water parks to ice cream stands.  These businesses typically open up around Memorial Day and wrap up around Labor Day.  Seasonal businesses can, however, operate longer than that and abide by a different set of rules in regards to overtime pay.  Any business that fits the criteria of a “seasonal business” as defined by the Department of Labor does not have to pay overtime hours.  Those guidelines found in RSA 279:21 section VIII state:

VIII. Those employees covered by the introductory paragraph of this section, with the following exceptions, shall, in addition to their regular compensation, be paid at the rate of time and one-half for all time worked in excess of 40 hours in any one week:
(a) Any employee employed by an amusement, seasonal, or recreational establishment if:
(1) It does not operate for more than 7 months in any calendar year; or
(2) During the preceding calendar year, its average receipts for any 6 months of such year were not more than 33- 1/3 percent of its average receipts for the other 6 months of such year. In order to meet the requirements of this subparagraph, the establishment in the previous year shall have received at least 75 percent of its income within 6 months. The 6 months, however, need not be 6 consecutive months.

I spent some time digging around the NH Department of Labor’s website, www.labor.state.nh.us, and I was pretty impressed with how easy it was to navigate and find information about this and other labor-related questions.  I decided to refresh my memory about child labor laws as well since many businesses hire younger workers for seasonal businesses and many non-seasonal businesses need to hire additional help for the busy summer months.  I won’t go into the details about the laws that apply during the school year, but as far as summer goes, you can hire youth ages 16 and 17 with written parent or guardian permission.  Youth under age 16 will need a Youth Employment Certificate unless they are working for their parent, grandparents, or guardians or they are employed as farm labor.  I can’t help but laugh when I read that one.  I guess it is assumed that family and farmers won’t take advantage of the kids.  I know I wouldn’t . . .

A youth can also work without a certificate if they are performing “casual labor” which means no more than three calendar days for one employer.  Youth under the age of 16 can work up to 48 hours per week during the summer vacation time period which is defined as June 1st through Labor Day.  It should also be noted that, “No youth shall be employed or permitted to work in any hazardous occupation, except in an apprenticeship, vocational rehabilitation, or training program approved by the commissioner” (RSA 276-A;4).

Owning a seasonal business can be a great opportunity as it fills a need for the community and helps drive revenue.  Like any other business, there are guidelines and rules that need to be followed as a part of running your business.  Take the time to do it right and hopefully you will have a business that becomes an institution in your community.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to provide the support needed for businesses so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she likes to spend time outdoors and discovering news places and activities in the community with her girls.  She can be reached at Christine.davis@dred.state.nh.us.

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