by Heather M Eichenbaum Esq
Although amusement parks are generally considered relaxed and fun by their guests, employees may well view the atmosphere differently. This is something to consider as you prepare your staff for the season ahead.
Park employees often work in extreme temperatures and weather conditions, stand on their feet for hours, and sometimes deal with difficult patrons. When an employee feels they are being mistreated, the working conditions compound and seem even worse.
Despite the casual nature of amusement parks, employers must adhere to standards for non-discrimination, avoidance of sexual harassment and other laws governing workplaces. Moreover, these policies must be posted conspicuously and enforced diligently to avoid claims of mistreatment.
Employees must be treated equally, regardless of their gender, race, age and religious beliefs. Their complaints must be documented, considered and investigated, and responded to seriously.
Parks must be particularly conscious of avoiding age discrimination. Though you may wish to project a youthful and energetic image, age cannot, under any circumstances, be a factor in hiring, promoting or firing any employee unless physical demands of the job render a particular age incapable of performing it (such as a minimum age for ride operators, or physical requirements for mechanics). In other words, if a particular individual can perform the job requirements, the employer cannot consider the person’s age in making the decision of who to give the job to.
Likewise, an employer cannot tolerate inappropriate sexual, racial, gender-based or age-based comments by any employee in the workplace. Allowing such comments, once brought to the employer’s attention, can easily result in liability if an employee complains about the work environment.
Appropriate action must be taken against any employee, including management and supervisory-level employees, who treats another employee, or even generally acts, inappropriately. Offending members of staff must be handled carefully but sternly. Although a “first offence” may be handled with a reprimand and warning, any second offence by the same employee must be responded to much more harshly to protect the park. In the event of a significant offence, such as a sexual assault, the employee should be immediately terminated to ensure a comfortable workplace for others and to avoid liability being assessed against the park.
Most importantly, all employee complaints, the investigation that follows, and the outcome of the investigation, must be carefully and thoroughly documented. Employees leave and memories fade. Without documentation of what occurred, it will leave your park incapable of defending itself against a claim of wrongdoing by an employee or former employee.
Heather Eichenbaum is an attorney with Spector Gadon & Rosen PC, located in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Florida. Clients include Six Flags, Steel Pier, Gillian’s Wonderland, Holiday World and Reithoffer Shows. Heather can be reached at +1 215-241-8856 or firstname.lastname@example.org