Are Seasonal Summer Employees Entitled to Workers’ Compensation?

Safe from the Heat

Seasonal work is more popular than ever. The summer brings opportunities for seasonal work to many workers at camps, pools, resorts, marinas, concert venues, water sport facilities, construction sites, farms, carnivals, restaurants, and other businesses. A seasonal employee may be a full-or part-time worker and be hired for a few weeks or for months. 

Are Seasonal Workers More Prone to Injuries than Full-Time Workers?

Seasonal workers may be at higher risk of sustaining work-related injuries than their full-time, permanent counterparts.  This is not necessarily the case, but some aspects of seasonal work can contribute to their risk of injury.  An employer should not expect a seasonal workers’ performance to match that of their experienced full-time workers doing comparable work.  If seasonal workers will be expected to work outside in the hot sun, they will need to acclimate to the heat gradually.  Failure to allow new hires to acclimate to working in the heat can cause them to experience dehydration, heat stress, dizziness, heat exhaustion, overwhelming fatigue, and elevated heart rate.  This combined with heavy physical activity can cause serious physical injury.

Unrealistic expectations by employers, lack of appropriate training, and hurried performance can all contribute to seasonal workers experiencing elevated rates of injuries compared with other workers.  Employers need to treat seasonal workers as members of the team who deserve adequate training to ensure they can safely and effectively perform their job duties.  Seasonal workers should not try to pace themselves to match that of more experienced workers. 

How can Employers Reduce the Risk of Injury to Seasonal Workers?

Prior to hiring new employees, employers are wise to craft a clear job description and screen applicants to ensure they possess the necessary background and skills.  They can request applicants provide professional references and follow up to verify the candidate’s claimed work history and inquire about the employee’s performance. 

Once a new seasonal employee is hired, the employer can make further efforts to ensure a smooth integration into the workplace. If the new hires are not familiar with tasks to be performed, employers should provide appropriate training. Seasonal workers may initially be less accurate, slower, or require more guidance and direction than experienced permanent worker counterparts.  Employers should expect this and make some allowances while the new hires develop skills and abilities. 

Are Employers Required to Adjust Policies to Cover Seasonal Employees?

In a survey of employer-provided Workers’ Compensation coverage, a significant number of employers stated they planned to hire seasonal employees.  Almost 60 percent of the employers participating in the survey said they would adjust their insurance policy to accommodate seasonal employees. The other employers had no such plans.  Failing to cover all applicable employees in a Workers’ Compensation insurance policy violates Workers’ Compensation laws.  Employers who fail to provide adequate insurance can be subject to fines and potentially jail for blatant violations. 

Seasonal workers may be under the impression that they are not eligible for Workers’ Compensation if they get injured on the job.  This is not true.  Almost all employers are required to have a Workers’ Compensation insurance plan, and the plan is supposed to cover all employees, even those working part time and/or seasonally.  Employers are expected to know and meet all applicable legal requirements in the states where they operate and insure their employees accordingly.  They may be subject to penalties or jail time if they fail to satisfy minimum insurance coverage requirements.

What Should Workers Do if They are Hurt on the Job?

Employees injured on the job are required to report their workplace injury to their employers. Failing to do so within a designated period, usually 30 days after the injury, will result in loss of the right to claim benefits. Injured employees must complete a claim form providing information about the nature of the injury and verifying that it occurred while working. Injured workers may be required to submit to a physical examination by a doctor of the employer’s choosing. 

What Benefits are Available Under Workers’ Compensation?

Employees who miss work because of an injury for more than about seven days of work are entitled to receive payment for a percentage of lost wage.  Benefits may last for up to 400 weeks after the injury, which will vary depending on the severity of the injury. 

Workers can be compensated for medical expenses that arise from the injury such as hospital bills, doctor’s visits, medications, and physical therapy. Employees who have been injured catastrophically may be entitled to long-term benefits. Certain impairments may entitle the injured worker to disability benefits.

In New Jersey, courts have held that seasonal employees are generally entitled to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits.  One of the more complex aspects of filing for Workers’ Compensation benefits is understanding the amount of compensation to which injured an injured employee will be entitled.  The amount is based on a percentage of lost salary.  The determination is based on a review of the record of employment that must show the worker was employed for a sufficient amount of time.  Work history may also be considered to satisfy this requirement. 

A temporary seasonal employee may receive Workers’ Compensation benefits beyond the time when he or she would have been working seasonally.  To do so, the worker must be able to prove that they would have been earning a wage elsewhere.  For example, a college student who normally works during school as a waiter or waitress but who works as a lifeguard during the summer can qualify for benefits into autumn provided they are unable to return to work and their employment records establish their work history.

Sometimes employers do not cooperate in processing the claim and refuse to pay benefits.  These cases are complex, and injured workers are advised to seek representation by an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer to ensure valid claims are not inappropriately denied.

Burlington County Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen Help Injured Seasonal Employees Recover

Seasonal employees provide valuable services and are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits just as permanent workers.  If you have been injured at work, be sure to report the injury to your employers.  After getting any needed immediate medical attention, reach out to the experienced Burlington County Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC for assistance. We will work to ensure you can properly recover, receive the services for which you are entitled, and recover compensation if warranted. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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