‘Tis the Season for Temp Workers, But What Legal Protections Do They Have on the Job?
Court decision considers who is liable for harassment: the temp agency or the client?
With December upon us, more and more temporary employees are helping businesses get through the holiday rush.
While working as a temp staffer can be a great way to earn money, many temporary employees may feel somewhat vulnerable in terms of basic workplace protections.
For example, temp workers who have to deal with potentially unlawful employment situations, such as harassment or discrimination, may not know where to turn to have their concerns addressed.
A recent court case underscored this issue. Let’s take a look at what happened and then discuss the legal ramifications for temporary staffers.
Targeted as Thieves
Matthew Faush was a temp worker at the Labor Ready agency. He and several other African-American temp staffers were assigned to help set up a new location of a Tuesday Morning retail store.
Faush claims that the store management repeatedly accused him and other African-American workers of stealing merchandise. The employees denied the accusations, but the store owner replied that “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][my] people wouldn’t do that.”
Several days into the assignment, the store owner’s mother directed Faush and another African-American staffer to finish out their shifts by attending to the garbage in the back of the store. Faush asked to speak to the store owner, but a white employee blocked Faush from walking in the manager’s direction. The employee also referred to Faush by a racial slur.
Faush attempted to tell the store owner about the incident, but the man refused to listen. He told Faush that he and the other employee were no longer allowed on the store floor because of concerns about loss prevention.
Not long after that, Faush and the other African-American temp staffer were fired.
Who is the Real Employer?
Faush spoke to an attorney and then sued Tuesday Morning for racial discrimination.
The company attempted to get the case thrown out, stating that Faush’s suit had no merit because he was not a store employee. A lower court agreed.
But an appeals court overturned that decision. It found that in this circumstance, the temp agency and Tuesday Morning could be considered joint employers.
Even though the temp agency hired and compensated Faush, Tuesday Morning retained complete control of his day-to-day activities, including when he could leave the store. In addition, Faush’s duties were generally indistinguishable from those of regular store employees.
The case was sent back to a lower court for reconsideration.
(The case discussed here is Faush v. Tuesday Morning.)
What Temp Workers Need to Know
If you’re a temp staffer, you’re entitled to the same legal workplace protection as “regular” employees.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued special guidance pertaining to temporary employees’ rights, stating that “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.”
If you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly by a temporary 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.