As the economy slowly rebounds, companies are finding that they need to hire more employees to fulfill new orders and meet current needs. In many cases, however, companies will test the waters by hiring temporary workers on a contractor basis to work in their organizations until the economy becomes stable enough to hire permanent staff.

In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this summer alone, temporary staffing agencies filled 14,000 jobs. Although companies think that this is a solution to their problems, hiring temporary employees may cause another set of problems – namely, they may open themselves up to liability that they had not previously considered.

Companies may not be aware of it, but the law often considers the hiring company and the temporary staff agency joint employers of the contract temp worker. This means that both organizations can be held liable for employment law violations.

Discrimination in the Hiring and Employment Relationship

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), temporary employees have the same protection against discrimination and harassment as regular full-time workers. As a result, hiring companies, as well as temporary agencies, are likely liable if the following discriminatory acts occur:

  • Discrimination against workers based on race, gender, disability status or religion if the company has 15 or more employees.
  • Wage discrimination, for example if a female employee receives less pay than a male counterpart for the same work. This applies if a company has more than one employee.
  • Age discrimination when the company employs more than 20 workers.

Employers and company Human Resource departments must be aware that they are not fully outsourcing the risk of liability to the staffing agency. If an agency is using a discriminatory hiring process, it can affect the hiring company.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Federal FLSA protects temporary employees and requires that workers receive adequate breaks. This means in a typical eight-hour workday, an employee needs a 30-minute meal break.

Employers do not need to compensate for this time, but when employers require work through lunch breaks and give too much work to accomplish in 40 hours, it could lead to a wage and hour violation. In addition, employers must offer shorter rest breaks and cannot subtract the 15 or 20 minutes from employee pay.

Workplace Safety

When temporary employees work at the company headquarters or a production plant, the company needs to ensure safe working conditions. If an occupational accident occurs while on the job, even if the worker is a temporary employee, that organization may still be responsible for the employee’s injuries.

Know Your Rights

If you are a temporary employee and you believe a negative employment decision resulted because of your race, gender, disability statute or age, contact an attorney to discuss available options. You may be eligible to receive compensation from the temporary staffing agency and/or the company where you worked. In addition, an action may prevent the staffing agency or company from utilizing similar behavior in the future.