The economy is slowly returning, but even though more jobs are being created and unemployment is dropping, there are still many seeking work that will allow them to support
themselves and their families. A recent report on a Univision program looked at the situation, and often plight, of job seekers. The program looked at the large numbers of people, nearly 2.8
million at last count, applying with and working for temporary employment agencies.
When most people think about a “temp agency” they think of clerical workers or other “white collar” office positions. But temp agencies are now filling positions many “blue collar” positions
spanning from construction to manufacturing to waste management. Temporary, or temp, work is short-term and may even be a part-time assignment, but for many it is an important, if small,
source of income. It can also be an opportunity to possibly find permanent work, if job performance is good enough and the employer is looking to fill other positions.
Temp agencies will have a database of its workers, their specialties or skills, and will provide businesses with employees that match the businesses needs for short-term assignments. The
agency is responsible for informing its workers of the basic requirements of the job they are going to including: dress code, hours, location, the supervisors name, and in some cases protective gear requirements. Some agencies will offer benefits to its employees, as will some businesses using temp workers, but it is not common. Additionally, some agencies and
businesses will charge its temp workers for the necessary protective gear. But temp agencies are not responsible for training the workers prior to filling the positions.
The Univision program looked at the growing trend of businesses failing to properly or sufficiently train temporary workers in high risk positions. Because of the short-term and
potentially short-notice nature of temp work, training is an often overlooked factor for the sake of speed and expense. As a result, temporary workers are twice as likely to suffer injury,
according to a 2010 Washington state study. This means more severe injuries like amputations, broken bones, and crush injuries for temp workers than permanent workers. Usually increased
injuries means increased workers compensation costs and businesses increasing training, but with temp workers, the temp agency is the responsible for covering those costs and often work
the increased fees into the fees they charge the businesses for their workers.
Blowing the Whistle
There are virtually no federal regulations regarding temp worker training, protections, and coverage. For that reason, in many cases it is only after a significant and noticeable spike in
injuries or the result of a whistleblower that problems receive attention and changes begin. In the case of the Univision program it was an increase in workers compensation claims, but could very
easily have been the result of a foreman or supervisor or another employee notifying management or other responsible parties about the situation. Whistleblowing is often difficult for
many because they fear retaliation and the loss of their job. However, state and federal laws protect whistleblowers when it comes to matters of safety and other situations that violate the
various state and federal laws protecting employees and their rights.
If you have raised concern over potential workplace violations and believe you have suffered
from retaliation, an experienced employment law attorney may be able to help.