Temp Worker? Here’s A Rundown Of Your Employee Rights

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 3.2 million temp jobs were added to the US workforce this year and that number is likely to increase.

The gig economy has been on the rise namely because employers are looking for flexbile options as the economic forecasts continue to predict a looming recession.

“The slightly slower growth in overall employment in September is a sign that the Federal Reserve’s attempts to slow the economy are beginning to take hold,” said Barry Asin, president of Staffing Industry Analysts in an October 2022 interview. “Meanwhile, with ongoing solid growth in temporary employment and the number of job openings continuing to significantly exceed the number of unemployed people, we believe that the environment remains positive for the staffing industry and others in the business of helping employers connect with the talent they need.”

Unfortunately, the uptick of the temp jobs has caused an increase of worker abuse as well. Ceilidh Gao of NELP.org points out, an investigation of temp agencies in Illinois found that employers and their temp agencies discriminated against Black and female job applicants. This is just one of the many concerns temp workers have faced, and experts have outlined what workers should expect when temping.

How do I handle wage theft?

Often, temp workers can find themselves subject to wage theft, in which employers pay well below market rate. Experts advise keeping quiet, gathering evidence (contracts, job postings etc).

“Don’t talk to management or employers alone because then they can deny whatever transpired in that conversation,” said Jannelle White, the director of Temp Workers Union Alliance Project in an interview with City Bureau. “So, first steps: document, document, document. Take notes and take a witness whenever possible.”

How do I know if a company is required to offer full-time/permanent offer?

A “perma-temp” usually refers to a long-term temporary worker, without reaping the benefits of a full-time permanent employee (insurance, 401k contributions, stock options).

Unfortunately, there are no regulations requiring companies to hire temp workers on permanently after a certain amount of time. “It’s a contradiction but it’s a reality that you have people who are temporary workers forever,” said Carden, of Warehouse Workers for Justice in an interview with City Bureau.  

How to navigate unionized workplaces?

“There could be a limitation in the contract that says that a temp has to become a direct hire,” said Tim Bell, executive director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative in an interview with City Bureau. “If there is no contract, there is no collective bargaining agreement in that shop, then the period is unlimited.” 

Bell also advised workers to forge a relationship with their union steward to glean information on how they can transition to a permanent role. 

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