Do Temp Workers Have the Same Rights as Regular Employees?
Chicago staffing firm accused of knowingly placing women in hostile work environment
In terms of basic rights and protections on the job, temp employees may often feel left out in the cold. For example, if a temp staffer is harassed while on an assignment, it may be unclear how the person is supposed to report the incident – to a supervisor at the temporary work location or to the staffing agency?
If something goes awry during an assignment – or the temp agency itself does something illegal – there’s a pretty big elephant in the room to contend with. That is, temp workers who complain can easily be replaced.
Staffing agencies make their money through contracts to provide workers. It’s a competitive business. Management may be unlikely to want to address an uncomfortable incident with a client for fear that the company could be replaced with another staffing firm. And if a temp worker complains one too many times, that person is likely to stop getting assignments.
However, that doesn’t mean that temp workers are without rights. In fact, they’re entitled to the same workplace protections as other employees, as one staffing firm was recently reminded of when it was forced to pay a sizeable settlement to a group of temp staffers. Let’s take a look at what happened in that case and then discuss temp workers’ rights on the job.
Complaints Were Ignored
Source One Staffing in Chicago was recently sued the by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
A class of female workers had a laundry list of complaints, including:
That the company placed female temp staffers in work environments that were known to be hostile toward women
That it didn’t address the women’s complaints of sexual harassment that occurred during job assignments and then retaliated against the women for reporting the incidents
That it made assignments based on gender, dividing jobs into “man’s work” and “woman’s work”
That women weren’t given the same opportunities as men to be place in positions that were likely to lead to permanent employment
That it illegally asked questions about disabilities on its job applications
After years of legal wrangling, the company finally agreed to settle the case rather than take its chances in front of a jury. Source One Staffing must pay $800,000 to the women who participated in the lawsuit.
What it means to temp staffers
If you’re a temp staffer, it’s important that you know that you’re entitled to the same workplace protection under the law as “regular” employees.
According to guidance from the EEOC, temp staffers “typically qualify as ‘employees’ of the staffing firm, the client to whom they are assigned, or both. Thus, staffing firms and the clients to whom they assign workers may not discriminate against the workers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.”
Furthermore, the EEOC states that:
a staffing firm must hire and make job assignments in a non-discriminatory manner
the client must treat the staffing firm worker assigned to it in a non-discriminatory manner, and that the staffing firm must take immediate and appropriate corrective action if it learns that the client has discriminated against one of the staffing firm workers
If you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly by a staffing agency or while working for a client as a temporary employee, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation to find out more about your rights.