Employers sometimes mistakenly believe that hiring a temporary employee through an agency means they won’t be liable if the worker files a discrimination or harassment complaint. Consequently, supervisors don’t take those complaints as seriously as they should.
Regardless of how the worker came on board, you must make sure bosses understand the importance of treating all complaints alike and reporting them promptly to HR.
The fact is that most temps—even if they are paid and generally managed by an agency—are still “employees” of the organization where they actually perform work. And they’re entitled to work in an environment free of harassment and discrimination.
Recent case: Chambala Hollis, who is black, signed on with Snelling Personnel Services, which placed him at Ply-Trim, a wood products manufacturer. He stacked wood and bundled it as it came out of a saw machine. During his short tenure with Ply-Trim, he got into an argument with a co-worker, dropped a load of wood from a forklift and damaged a garage door.
The final straw was an argument Hollis had about whether he was supposed to sweep the floor. Ply-Trim told Snelling Personnel Services it didn’t want Hollis on its premises anymore.
Hollis sued Ply-Trim, alleging that he had been terminated because of his race and that he had worked in a racially hostile environment. Ply-Trim argued that Hollis hadn’t been their employee, but was employed exclusively by Snelling.
The judge said Hollis was an employee because someone at Ply-Trim supervised him and directed his daily work. It didn’t matter that all other personnel matters were handled by the temp agency. (Hollis v. Ply-Trim, No. 4:08-CV-2491, ND OH, 2010)
Final note: Luckily for Ply-Trim, it had a legitimate reason for discharging Hollis.
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