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Are Temporary Workers Protected Against Discrimination?

April 23rd, 2021
Temporary Workers

Many employers use the services of a staffing agency to fill temporary positions. For example, they may need someone to cover for a maternity leave or short-term disability or for seasonal work during an extra-busy period. Employees will often work in temporary jobs as well. Sometimes, it is during a break in college, at the holidays for extra income, or while they are seeking full-time employment.

Temporary workers may wonder if they have the same rights as full-time employees, especially if they face illegal practices in the workplace place, such as employment discrimination. Both permanent and temporary workers have the same protections regarding discrimination.

What Laws Protect Temporary Workers Against Discrimination?

Both federal and Pennsylvania state laws protect temporary and permanent workers. Federally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws employment discrimination based on the following:

These categories are protected classes. Employers with 15 or more workers must comply with anti-discrimination laws. Employment agencies, including temporary staffing agencies and recruitment agencies, must comply with these laws regardless of how many employees they have.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that prohibit discrimination. In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment based on certain protected traits, including race and gender. The PHRA also enforces the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Discrimination in the Employment Agency

An employment agency cannot discriminate against its own employees or in its referral practices. For example, an employment agency cannot honor an employer’s work order for a white employee or a male or a young person. Agencies are also guilty of discrimination if they refer only females to clerical positions or males to supervisory positions. If an employment agency discriminates against any protected class, they are as guilty as if the company that contracted them had committed the violations.

What are Common Types of Workplace Discrimination?

Any employee, whether temporary or permanent, should know what constitutes discrimination in the workplace. The following are examples of the many types of racial, gender, sex, age, and color discrimination found in employment agencies:

  • A black person being told by an employment agency that a job has been filled while the agency continues to refer white people to the employer.
  • A woman being referred repeatedly to secretarial positions by an employment agency even though she was looking for a management position.
  • A recruiting agency honoring an employer request to quote one salary for one gender.
  • An older worker being referred by a staffing agency to lower-paying positions despite their experience and salary expectations.
  • A staffing agency honoring an employer request to refer only young people or attractive people for positions.
  • A recruiting agency referring only white or male employees to management position interviews.

Some workplace discrimination examples include:

  • Being asked questions in an interview indirectly related to race, sexual orientation, marital status, or children.
  • Being asked offensive or invasive questions in an interview that directly or indirectly discriminate against a protected class.
  • Hearing age-related comments or racial slurs in the workplace or seeing written communications that contain derogatory comments about age, color, race, sexual orientation, or gender.
  • Being denied promotions, raises, or other benefits that are offered to people of a different race or gender.
  • Being forced to follow dress codes, grooming, or hygiene requirements that people of a different race, color, or gender are not required to follow.
  • As a woman, being paid less than a man for the same work or being hired for a lower position despite being more qualified than a man.
  • Being asked for sexual favors by a person in a supervisory position in return for a raise, promotion, or other benefits.
  • Being inappropriately touched or brushed against while at work.
  • Hearing comments about appearance or dress or being stared at in a concerning manner by a co-worker or superior. 

Discrimination is illegal whether the employee is a temporary or permanent worker. Discriminatory practices by employment and recruiting firms and the employers who contract with them are also illegal. If one is experiencing discrimination or harassment in the workplace, an employment attorney can help.

What Should Temporary Workers Do if They Encounter Discrimination?

If a co-worker or superior is causing the discrimination, tell them to stop the behavior immediately. Then, report the behavior to a superior, the Human Resources (HR) department, and the staffing agency if one is in a temporary position. At the first suspicion or act of discrimination, also contact an employment attorney.

Many employers and employment agencies will try to make the problem go away without compensating the victim or punishing the perpetrator. Some may even ignore the victim’s complaints or deem them as not believable. A few may threaten, disparage, or retaliate against the employee who suffered the discrimination.

An employment attorney can also help victims of discriminatory practices by temporary staffing agencies or recruiting agencies. Even if an agency was following their client’s requests or preference for a specific type of worker, they could still be found liable in a discrimination case. In addition to notifying superiors and the HR department of the discrimination and consulting with an attorney, a victim of workplace or hiring-related discrimination should do the following steps:

  • Follow the company’s or employment agency’s procedures for reporting grievances and resolving problems.
  • Document all instances of the discriminatory behaviors, including who, what, when, and where. Note all details as best as possible.
  • Keep copies of incriminating notes, emails, and other forms of communications.
  • Record videos or take pictures of the illegal behaviors if it is possible.
  • Demand that the person who is discriminating to stop the behavior. Make note of all instances of when the orders to stop were made.

How can an Employment Attorney Help?

Since both federal and state laws protect workers in protected classes, an employment attorney can help them determine how and where they should file a complaint. The attorney will also advise them on how to proceed both in and outside the workplace. They can help with reporting the adverse behavior to the HR department or the employment agency. Sometimes, just having an attorney present can support the seriousness of the situation.

An employment attorney will also gather evidence, interview and prepare witnesses, and make a strong case for the victim. While an employer or staffing agency may offer to compensate the victim, any settlement should be negotiated only with the employment attorney’s help.

Philadelphia Employment Attorneys at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Protect the Rights of Temporary and Permanent Workers

Temporary workers are entitled to a respectful and safe workplace. Whether it is discrimination related to the hiring process or the practices of a temporary staffing agency, no one deserves the humiliation and adverse effects of illegal discrimination. Our Philadelphia employment attorneys at The Gold Law Firm P.C. have helped numerous employees get compensated for discrimination and other illegal workplace practices. Temporary staffing agencies and recruiters are not exempt from federal and state laws that make workplace discrimination illegal. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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