Getting a temporary job for the summer or the holidays is a great way to earn some extra cash, but is your employer still accountable if you get injured? While this answer may vary based on the type of work and your state, most of the time seasonal workers are entitled to the same protections as other employees.
Seasonal Work in the USA
Although fewer teens have jobs these days than they did a couple decades ago, seasonal jobs still account for a huge portion of the labor force. Most winter holiday seasons see at least half a million temporary jobs pop up across the US, whether it’s taking on extra shifts at a popular restaurant, staffing a holiday resort, or working the Santa line at the mall.
Furthermore, the high unemployment and underemployment rates in the US, first rising after the 2008 financial crisis and again during the coronavirus pandemic, means that more and more Americans work an extra seasonal job in addition to their primary jobs. This is an important trend, because the more overworked you are, the more likely you are to make a mistake or have an accident.
There is no shortage of ways you can get injured at work, but the most common work injuries include:
- Tripping or slipping and experiencing a fall
- Car accidents while in the course of your job
- Inhalation or other dangerous exposure to toxic material
- Cuts, burns, and lacerations
- Being hit by moving or falling objects
- Assault or other forms of violence by customers or unknown assailants
Employee Protection Laws Vary, but Seasonal Workers Are Usually Eligible for Workers’ Compensation
Worker’s compensation is a payment that injured workers receive while they are recovering at home or in the hospital from an injury on the job and continue to receive until they are able to return to work.
The same insurance coverage that employers hold for worker’s compensation for their full-time employees usually covers seasonal and temporary workers as well. In some states, employers may not be required to have this kind of insurance coverage if they are only employing less than five people, as is the law in Missouri, for example.
Another way state laws play an essential role here is that some states with less stringent worker protection laws, in the interest of spurring economic growth by reducing business costs, will offer exceptions to seasonal worker protection in certain industries. Some entertainment jobs may fall into this category, as may farming or other part time or seasonal agriculture work.
This reinforces just how important it is that you clearly read over your contract. Never be concerned about inquiring as to exactly what your rights are as an employee (and making sure that anything that is promised is also delivered in the written contract).
Regarding wage benefits, you may be entitled to receive up to two thirds of your former average weekly wage for non-catastrophic injury cases.
The Temp Addendum
Many Americans looking for temporary or part-time work, or who just want to get their foot in the door with a new industry and need to find a job fast, will seek work through a temp staffing agency (known more commonly as a temp agency).
While this may be a faster route towards a fresh paycheck and a quick fix to a summer or holiday season job search, be warned: finding seasonal work through a temp agency may complicate your options for compensation if you get injured on the job.
Why? The short answer to this complicated (and state-dependent) question is that if you get injured, say, while working a summer holiday resort job that you got through a temp agency, you might technically be employed by the temp agency and not directly through the resort. This could mean that you may not have the resort’s worker compensation coverage.
Even if your temp agency does offer coverage, the relevant insurance company might create a hassle for you by finding loopholes through which both employer’s insurers can try to dodge responsibility. The devil is really in the details here, so this underscores the previous section’s point that 1) asking questions about what your rights and coverage are and 2) double and triple checking your work contract, even if it’s just a temporary seasonal gig, is really critical.
Remember, no matter how safe your job might be, accidents do happen, and it’s crucial that you know you’re covered so that if you are injured, you can focus solely on getting better and not take a second hit in your personal finances.