What a Temporary Worker in California Should Know

Today’s guest post comes from Frank Feldman, the PR Media Manager at Stephen Danz & Associates. Thank you for your submission. Any questions can be directed to the firm by following their link above.

Businesses in California and all through the United States, hire hundreds and thousands of temporary workers every year. After all, temporary workers easily translate into significant cost savings, both in the short and the long run. Businesses are also willing to hire temporary workers from their trusted sources (staffing agencies) because such workers are pre-screened and pre-qualified for various job roles. When an organization is growing quickly, is under-resourced or has an urgent, short-term vacancy to fill, it is likely to consider bringing in some temporary workers.

It’s understandable that businesses are looking at improving the bottom-line but on numerous occasions, employers violate the rights of temporary workers. If you are a temporary worker in California, here is what you should know:

What Happens When a Temporary Worker Gets Injured On the Job?

You may qualify for workers’ compensation even if you are a temporary or part-time worker employed in California. Your ‘temporary’ employer will have to pay for necessary medical care for injuries as well as illnesses related to work. In most cases, it’s immaterial who was responsible for the injury.  

In the state of California, both the primary and secondary employers are required by law to take all steps necessary to protect temporary workers from workplace hazards. Both of the employers also need to comply with California’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) regulations.  Therefore, like all other employers (private and public) in California, they should have an Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP) in place.

Generally, the primary employer – a staffing agency that hires temporary workers and assigns them to various host employers – assumes the responsibility of covering temporary workers under their workers’ compensation insurance besides performing functions such as recruitment, payroll management, termination, etc.

The primary and secondary employers in California create a contract that clearly defines who will fulfill the necessary workplace safety and health requirements.

Most of the legal issues concerning temporary workers revolve around this contract.

When Can a ‘Temporary’ Worker Become a ‘Regular’ Worker?

There is no specific time limit on how soon a ‘temporary’ worker may be classified as a ‘regular’ worker.

However, your employer could face liability if:

  • You have been employed as a temporary worker for an extended period
  • You perform the same set of duties as regular, full-time employees
  • You have been denied benefits that other, regular employees receive

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Microsoft started hiring a large number of temporary workers. The technology giant was, of course, looking to save money. The company even introduced a badge-system to distinguish temporary employees (orange badges) from permanent employees (blue badges).

At first, it seemed the hiring strategy is working well for Microsoft. The company retained these temporary workers for many years. The legal eagles sensed trouble when these temporary workers tried to participate in Microsoft’s employee discount stock purchase program. Microsoft denied its ‘temporary’ workers the benefit it extended to its ‘regular’ employees.

In 1992, these workers filed a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant. They argued that due to the extended period of employment, they were no longer ‘temporary’ workers. The legal battle went on for eight long years. In the end, the workers won. The company agreed to pay $97 million to settle the class-action lawsuit.

Are Temporary Workers Protected Against Discrimination in the Workplace?

Yes. Both client firms and staffing agencies can be sued for discriminating against the temporary workers in the workplace as per the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

Thus, the staffing agencies and the host employers to whom they assign temporary employees cannot discriminate against the employees on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or disability.

It practically means that a host employer cannot defend discriminatory actions in the workplace with the argument that they are not the primary employer.  Similarly, if a host employer asks a primary employer for ‘only Latina women in their early 20s” to fill temporary sales positions during a festive season and the staffing agency does the needful, both the staffing agency and the host employer are liable under federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

How Can A Temporary Worker Report A Problem? 

You can report the problem to both your staffing agency and the immediate supervisor at the client firm.

  • Supervisors at the client firm may say that you cannot have access to the HR department as you are a temporary employee; just tell them you are reporting the problem in writing for their information
  • f you have reasons to believe you are a victim of illegal discrimination, write your complaint to the appropriate official at the client firm with the title of “Complaint of [Age/Racial/Religious discrimination]”.
  •  If the client firm fails to address the problem, you can speak with an employment law attorney or file a complaint with a relevant government agency
  • If your immediate supervisor is sexually harassing you, report the matter to the EEOC
  • If the client firm refuses to pay earned over time, you can report the matter to the Department of Labor

Final Words

All employees, including temporary workers, have rights. If you are a temporary worker and have sufficient reasons to believe your rights are being violated either by the staffing agency or the host employer, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney in California.

Disclaimer: This is not legal information. No attorney-client privileges are substantiated from this article.  

Author Bio

I am writing to introduce myself as Frank Feldman I am the PR Media Manager at Stephen Danz & Associates, one of the largest law firms committed solely to representing employees in their disputes with employers in California.

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