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Questions on Temp Agency Laws

Temporary work agencies, also referred to as temp agencies, find and retain employees willing to work in temporary employment. Temporary work agencies may differ from recruitment agencies in that they place employees for a limited period. These employees —called freelancers, consultants, or interim employees—may work full-time or part-time and may even receive company benefits. Temp agencies may specialize in a certain field of work or profession such as the health care industry, industrial labor, secretarial jobs, security staffing or housekeeping. Often they keep a database of professionals who are contacted when there is job availability. Temporary employees are employed by the agency and not the firm hiring them for work. Conflicts of discrimination arise when temporary employment is terminated without notice. Below, Legal Experts answer some of the top questions on temp agencies to help you understand the law and your rights in such situations.

As a temporary employee, I have worked 40 hours a week at my present company for a year. However, I was paid for the first six months by my temp agency and the next six months by the company I work with. Am I eligible for FMLA benefits?

The Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) applies to all companies, whether public or private, with 50 or more employees. Employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any serious medical condition of the employee or his/her immediate family member, birth and care of an employee’s newborn child or placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. To avail FMLA, an employee must have logged in at least 1,250 hours in a 12-month period prior to requesting leave.

In your case, while you have been paid by different parties, the law would typically see them as agents of one another and, for all practical purposes, they would serve as one company. If you have met the requirements of the Act, you would be eligible for benefits.

The temp agency that provides my company with staffing services says that I may not fire an employee without issuing three warning notices. Is this legal?

You may be facing this situation because of the contract you entered into with the temp agency. Such contracts may detail how you treat their employees, as well as terms of employment and termination. Typically, the employee has agreed to the conditions laid down by the temp agency, which you as a company agree to when you sign them on. You may have to move to another temp agency that matches your policies if you don’t agree with the terms in the contract.

After my temporary job through a temp agency ended, I was offered a position by the same company in another department. However, I was told that I cannot be hired by the company for another year, unless it pays a fee to the temp agency. Is this legal?

Legally, a temp agency may include a provision in the contract that demands a fee for hiring a temporary employee for a permanent position within the same company that employs him or her. Some temp agencies also include a provision where, if the temporary employee is hired by the company permanently, the fee is either reduced or waived. In any case, the contract your agency has entered into with the company will hold forth. You may approach the company that wants to hire you and ask if they are willing to pay the fee to your temp agency.

The company in Tennessee, where I was placed by my temp agency, offered me a full-time position. Later, they put me in a full-time position on a 30-day trial basis. Now, I’ve been told that they are not hiring immediately, but I may continue working full-time on a temp basis with temp pay. What’s my legal recourse?

In Tennessee, you are an employee at-will, which means that you may be hired at any time and fired for any or no reason. It also means that an employer has the right to decide whether or not to hire you. Merely offering you a job does not bind them to a contract. There is no law that can make them hire you in any other manner than the existing position offered by them.

I work for a healthcare provider through a temp agency. However, when I pointed out discrepancies in their claims processing stating that it violated the law, they fired me. Isn’t this illegal?

Under the law, it is illegal to fire any employee who reports suspected law violations. For that reason, you may have a retaliation complaint against the company for reporting what you believed is against the law. However, there may be a slight complication as you are an employee of the temp agency and not the company. You may, of course, argue that you were a borrowed or shared employee. It may be better for you to hire a local employment attorney who would assess the facts and help you with a future course of action. Additionally, you may notify the State Department of Health and Hospitals and the State Insurance Commissioner of the suspected violations.

Companies hiring employees through temp agencies are allowed to terminate them at will, even in the middle of the projected time-frame of an assignment. Besides, there are also cases where temp agencies with less repute hire professionals without fully checking their credentials, leading to termination of employment. Such instances may lead to employees questioning the legality of the termination. It is best to contact Legal Experts for assistance to review the merits of the case.
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