Contingent Workers Rights

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 What's a Contingent Worker?

Contingent workers are workers who are working in temporary or part-time positions. In many cases, contingent workers are under contract for a specific project for a set period of time.

A contingent worker may also be known by other labels, including:

It is common for contingent workers to be supplied to companies using temporary employee agencies or temp agencies. These agencies maintain databases of contingent workers who have been vetted and can be used to staff work projects.

There are many advantages associated with using contingent workers. Contingent workers can typically help a hiring company save on money and their costs in the long run.

For contingent workers, being independent workers can also be advantageous because they can often set their own hours and work at their own pace. It is important to note that there are certain limitations to contingent work, including a lack of a consistent work schedule.

Additionally, since a contingent worker is not hired to be part of a company, they will typically not receive benefits, including health insurance or vacation time. It is also important that a contingent worker is familiar with self-employment tax laws.

What Are Workers’ Rights?

Workers’ rights include various protections and guarantees that are granted to employees. Workers’ rights typically include, but may not be limited to:

  • Wages;
  • Vacation and holiday time;
  • Working hours;
  • Working conditions.

There are some rights that apply to all workers regardless of their field of employment or their background. Federal law, for example, protects all workers from major issues, including:

Other rights workers may have will depend on their line of work and their individual employment contract. For example, an electrician or construction job typically will focus more on safety when it comes to workers’ rights.

What Are the Categories of Workers’ Rights?

As noted above, workers’ rights may vary depending on the category they fall into, for example:

There are also some careers and jobs that may involve a mixture of these rights. Additionally, the worker’s rights may change depending on their standing in the business or company.

What Rights Do Contingent Workers Have?

Similar to full-time employees, contingent workers also have certain legal rights. Just because a worker is not a regular company staff member does not mean they are not protected by the basic federal provisions that govern labor and employment regulations.

Contingent workers may not be able to claim employee benefits that regular workers receive. However, they have a general right to be free from certain conduct, including discrimination and workplace harassment.

The rights of contingent workers may vary by jurisdiction and according to the type of work they are doing. There are numerous state and federal laws that may apply to a contingent worker.

For example, contingent workers:

  • Cannot be discriminated against on the basis of:
    • Race;
    • Gender;
    • Disability;
  • Other protected categories;
    • Are entitled to federal and state standards regarding:
    • Minimum wages;
    • Overtime pay;
    • Working hours, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and
  • Must be provided with a safe working environment according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) when they are working at the employer’s worksite or at a site that is controlled by their employer.

Contingent workers often enter into employment contracts with their employers. These contracts typically outline the details of their employment agreement, including the work standards and payment arrangements.

Contingent workers also have rights under the contract laws of their jurisdiction. For example, if the employer breaches the contingent worker’s contract, they can be held liable for breaching an employment contract and vice-versa.

This applies even if a contingent worker is not technically a full-time employee because the contract should guarantee the rights of the contingent worker.

How Long Can You Keep a Contingent Worker?

As noted above, contingent workers are usually not formal employees of their employer or company. Instead, they are hired for specific purposes and are typically paid by the hour.

Contingent workers may be hired on a temporary basis, for example, for a day or a week. In some situations, they may be hired for several months.

It is common for contingent workers to be used to do work that is seasonal or involves completing a specific project.

What if Workers’ Rights Have Been Violated?

Common examples of workers’ rights violations include:

The remedies available for these types of violations typically involve some type of monetary damages award. This award is intended to compensate the temporary workers for their lost wages and other costs.

Other available remedies may include reinstating the temporary worker to their previous position if they were wrongfully terminated and providing any benefits they were supposed to receive that were withheld. A violation of federal law may also involve other legal consequences for a supervisor or employer.

What Are Temporary Employee Discrimination Claims?

All employees, including temporary employees, can bring action against their employees for employee discrimination. Temporary employee discrimination arises when an employer discriminates against a temporary worker based on that worker belonging to a particular protected class, including:

  • Race;
  • Age;
  • Sex;
  • National origin;
  • Religion;
  • Pregnancy; or
  • Disability.

Every state has its own anti-discrimination laws. In general, federal laws provide that anti-discrimination laws will still apply to a worker even if they were hired through a temporary employment agency for a short-term or seasonal project.

Contingent worker employment discrimination cases can be more difficult than those of full-time employees. In many cases, this is because the employee was staffed by a temporary agency and not the company itself.

The first step in these types of cases is to determine whether the company or the temporary employment agency can be held liable for the discriminatory conduct. In some situations, it will be clear that the business that hired the temporary employee is liable for the discrimination.

This is especially true in cases where there is a past history of discriminatory behavior within the company’s hiring process or if a discrimination claim can be supported by the company’s hiring statistics. In contrast, a temporary employment agency may be held liable if it upholds discriminatory policies and does not report the company.

In these types of cases, both the company and the temporary employment agency may be held liable for discrimination.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues Involving Contingent Workers’ Rights?

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns regarding your rights as a contingent worker, it is essential to consult with an employment contract lawyer. Due to recent economic conditions, the number of contingent workers has increased.

If you are currently a contingent worker, you are provided with many of the same protections and rights that full-time employees have. Your lawyer can advise you regarding those rights, review your employment contract, and file a lawsuit on your behalf if needed.

Your lawyer can advise you of your rights in your state if you are considering becoming a member of the contingent workforce. They can also review your contingent employment agreement before you accept the position.

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