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Am I paying my workers properly?

In response to a market of discount-hungry consumers, Black Friday has inevitably bled into Thanksgiving Day. This provides even more reason for employers to double-check their payroll and accounting.

Federal Holiday

Since Thanksgiving is a federal holiday, you might naturally think you have to pay your employees time and a half. In fact, federal law does not require you to pay your employees extra, or above normal, pay for working on a holiday. This is especially true for retail or hospitality businesses as holidays are considered regular workdays. Of course, this all depends on your Employment Contract.

But what if your employee decides to take Thanksgiving off? Well, if you're an employer that doesn't provide any paid holidays (check your Employee Handbook), you are not obligated to pay them for that day of missed work. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay only for time worked.


Your employees may be working longer hours than usual to meet the demand of frenzied shoppers, so it's important to know the difference between exempt and nonexempt workers. Nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime pay, which is the case for most retail or hospitality workers. This means if your employee works over 40 hours during the week of Thanksgiving, or more than 8 hours in a single day, they may be entitled to that time and a half. Failure to comply with this law may subject you to noncompliance penalties like back payroll taxes or other heavy monetary fines.

How can I manage crowd control?

In 2008, a Wal-Mart employee died in a deadly Black Friday stampede. Just minutes before the store opened its doors, an out-of-control mob of shoppers smashed their way in, trampling workers in the process. In response to this tragic incident and other horrific incidents that could have been prevented, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created crowd management safety guidelines. It gives you a detailed list of things to do for planning, pre-event setup, during the sales event, and emergency situations. 

If you are expecting more shoppers than usual, it is important that you review the OSHA guidelines and consider what you can do to control crowds. You may even want to hire temporary help for the day, weekend, or season, to help manage crowds. Also, with retail theft on the rise, those extra workers could help save you from potential theft losses.

It does not take much preparation to ensure you're doing everything possible to create a safe shopping environment for your customers and employees. If not, you could face a premises liability lawsuit if an injury happens in your store or workplace.

What are best practices to ensure worker safety?

The OSHA guidelines can help create a safe environment for both workers and customers. But in addition to these guidelines, you can help prepare your employees for an unpredictable shopping season. Many retailers choose to hire temporary security guards for the holiday season. Minimally, employers may want to review their policies and training with their employees ahead of the busy shopping rush. If there will be temporary policies or extra security during Black Friday or the holiday shopping rush, it is important to make sure your employees know those policies and how to call for help.

Here are some proactive steps you should encourage your employees to take:

  • Let someone, preferably a supervisor, know if you think a situation is getting dangerous.
  • Know where the team of security guards are located, and how you can get help if needed.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good traction.

It is important to let your employees know that they are not legally obligated to place their physical safety at risk. Careful preparation can help ease anxiety, and ongoing communication can help mitigate any potential risks throughout the busy holiday season. Check in with your employees every so often. See if there is anything you can do to help solve any arising problems or fears.

From bad publicity to injuries to lawsuits, there's too much at risk to not prepare. Some risk mitigation planning for your Black Friday can make sure you get the rewards of the shopping holiday, without the unintended consequences. If you have more questions about preparing your business and employees for Black Friday or the holiday shopping season, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice. 

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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