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By April 27, 2016Blog

If your organization will be laying off some of its workforce in the coming months as a result of your busy season coming to an end, should these separations be reported as “seasonal layoffs?”

The answer is “probably not.” How an employer defines a “season” and how a state unemployment insurance agency defines it is often vastly different. Here are some insights into seasonal employment that will hopefully make it more clear.

For starters, it is important to understand that currently only 18 states have a seasonal provision in their law. They are: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Da-kota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The remaining states and territories have no such provision rendering the following information not applicable.

Unemployment laws and interpretations vary from state to state; however, a general definition of “seasonal employment” is work that can only be carried out during certain times of the year. It is generally applied to the agricultural industry. A common misconception exists within the retail industry around the holiday “season.” While a surge of business does occur during this time of year, it is not considered seasonal employment in any state. Think of it this way – a person can shop any time of year, but a farmer cannot plant tomatoes in Ohio in December.

In these states for which it is applicable, an employer must request and be granted “seasonal status” from their respective state unemployment insurance agency. If it is granted, the employer is only potentially liable for charges if the separation occurs, and benefits are granted, during the established seasonal period—not before the start of the season and not following the end.

Here is an example.

Colorado provides seasonal status for its ski resorts. A resort applies for and is granted seasonal status for an established seasonal period. For demonstrative purposes, let’s say it is November 1 through March 31. The resort is only potentially liable if a worker separates during that five month period. We say potentially because if the claimant quits or is discharged during the “season,” the unemployment insurance agency will review the facts surrounding the separation and render a determination just as with any separation from a non-seasonal employer. If that same worker completes the season on March 31, secures subsequent employment, and is discharged on June 1, the ski resort is not liable for charges as the separation occurred outside of the permissible season.

This is certainly a high-level overview of this classification of employment, but hopefully creates a better understanding. Employers should only report separations as “seasonal” if they have applied for and been approved for the status. It bears repeating that an employer’s definition of seasonal may differ from that of a state unemployment insurance  agency and only the above 18 states provide for this classification.

Source: Equifax Workforce Solutions

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