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Discrimination Against Temporary Employees

Sometimes, when your business is going through a busy period, you may consider hiring temporary employees (‘temps’). A temp is defined as someone who works for a company for a short period of time, such as during the holiday season or during a staff shortage, without being an official member of the company. Despite their temporary nature, temp workers do have rights against discrimination and unfair treatment.

Rights & Responsibilities

Temporary workers in South Carolina generally cannot claim some of the benefits available to full-time employees. South Carolina, like most states in the union, is also an at-will state, which means that an employer can fire an employee at any time as long as the reason for the termination is not discriminatory. Legally, temporary workers are in a somewhat disadvantaged position in their day-to-day interactions with employers.

However, temp workers are protected by some of the same laws that govern the rights of full-time workers. Temps may not be fired or disciplined for asserting their legal rights. If a temporary worker can prove that they were mistreated for reasons of their race, gender, nationality or any other reason delineated under the South Carolina Human Affairs Law or Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, they are entitled to the same compensation that a full-time employee would be eligible to receive.

The Issue of Multiple Employers

The one complication that commonly occurs regarding temporary workers’ discrimination or safety claims is that there may be more than one employer potentially responsible. Depending on the facts of a specific situation, it may be appropriate to file against the direct employer, or it may be appropriate to file against the temp agency through whom the work was contracted. South Carolina has previously recognized this “joint employer doctrine,” but recently it was codified into more concrete law.

In August 2015, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes South Carolina, officially held that a ‘hybrid test’ must be used when determining who is the employer of a temporary worker for purposes of Title VII, and found that sometimes, multiple employers may justifiably be held liable. Several different factors must be considered, according to the Fourth Circuit, primarily to do with who has the authority over the employee in certain respects. Examples include hiring and firing, possession of employment records and providing training, among others. Employers must keep all these factors in mind when asserting that a worker is or is not an employee under Title VII, lest they wind up liable for that worker’s poor treatment.

Contact An Employment Law Attorney

Even if you are not a full-time employee, you have rights that your employer must uphold, or else face state and federal consequences. A knowledgeable employment discrimination law attorney can help clarify any issues. Attorney A. Christopher Potts of Hitchcock & Potts has years of experience in navigating this area of law, and understands how frightening and confusing experiencing discrimination can be. Contact our Charleston office today at 843-577-5000 to set up an appointment.

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