Worker’s rights refer to various protections and guarantees which are granted to employees. These rights often include:
- Vacation and holiday time;
- Working hours; and
- Working conditions.
There are certain rights that apply to all workers, regardless of their field of employment or background. For example, federal laws protect all workers from major issues such as:
- Harassment; and
- Wrongful termination.
Other worker’s rights may depend on the line of work or on their individual employment contract. For example, an electrician or construction job focuses more on safety when it comes to worker’s rights.
What are the Categories of Worker’s Rights?
Worker’s rights will often vary depending upon the category, such as:
- Day laborer or temporary employee rights. These often involve rights regarding hours and scheduling, as well as contract labor terms;
- Union and non-union laborers rights. Union workers often have very specific rights according to union terms;
- Contingent worker rights. These often involve rights with regards to fees, performance of duties, and delegation of worker duties; and
- Immigrant worker rights. Protections often involve anti-discrimination, harassment, and documentation laws.
Certain jobs and careers may involve a mixture of different rights. In addition, a worker’s rights may change depending upon their standing in a company or a business.
What is a Contingent Worker?
A contingent worker is a worker that is working in a temporary or part-time position. Often, the worker is under a contract for a specific project for a set period of time. Contingent workers may also be known by other titles, such as:
- Temporary workers, or temps;
- Contract workers; and
- Independent contractors.
A contingent worker is typically not a formal employee of their company or employer. Instead, a contingent worker is hired for a specific purpose and is usually paid by the hour.
A contingent worker may be hired to work on a temporary basis, such as for a day or a week, or, in some cases, for several months. It is common for contingent workers to be recruited to do work which is seasonal or involves completing specific projects.
Contingent workers are often supplied to companies through the use of a temporary employee agency, or a temp agency. These agencies have databases of vetted contingent workers who can be used to staff work projects.
There are numerous advantages that are associated with contingent workers. A contingent worker can usually help the hiring company save money and costs in the long run.
For the contingent worker, being an independent worker can also be advantageous to them as well. They can often set their own hours and work at their own pace.
It is important to note that there are limitations to contingent work, including the lack of a consistent work schedule. In addition, since the contingent worker is not hired to be part of the company, they may not receive benefits such as vacation or health insurance.
It is also important for contingent workers to familiarize themselves with self-employment tax laws.
What Rights Do Contingent Workers Have?
Similar to a full-time employee, a contingent worker also has certain legal rights. Simply because the workers are not regular staff members of a company does not mean that they are not protected by the basic federal provisions that cover labor and employment regulations. Although a contingent worker may not be able to claim the employee benefits which a regular worker receives, they have a general right to be free from certain conduct, such as workplace harassment and discrimination.
The rights of a contingent worker may vary by jurisdiction and according to the type of work they are performing. There are still many state and federal laws which apply to contingent workers.
For example, a contingent worker:
- Cannot be discriminated against on the basis of:
- disability; or
- other protected categories;
- Is entitled to federal and state standards regarding:
- minimum wages;
- overtime pay; and
- working hours, according 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 the contingent worker is working at the employer’s worksite or at a site that is controlled by the employer.
A contingent worker typically enters into an employment contract with their employer. The contract often describes the details of the employment arrangement, including work standards and payment plans. Therefore, a contingent worker also has rights according to the contract laws in their jurisdiction.
For instance, if an employer breaches a term in the contingent worker’s contract, they may be held liable for breaching an employment contract and vice-versa. This applies even if the contingent worker is not technically a full-time employee, since the contract should guarantee the contingent worker’s rights.
What if Worker’s Rights have been Violated?
The most common worker’s rights violations include:
- Withholding salary;
- Unfair wages;
- Disputes over hours, especially overtime rights; and
- Disputes over benefits.
The remedies for worker’s rights violations usually involve some form of a monetary damages award. These damages are intended to compensate the worker for lost wages and other costs.
Other remedies may include reinstating an employee to their previous position, if they have been wrongfully terminated, or a return of benefits that were withheld. Violations of federal law may involve other penalties for an employer or supervisor.
What are Temporary Employee Discrimination Claims?
As noted above, similar to a full-time employee, a temporary employee can also bring an action against their employer for employee discrimination claims. A temporary employee discrimination claim occurs when an employer discriminates against a temporary worker based on that worker belonging to a particular protected class, including:
- National origin;
- Pregnancy; or
Each state has its own version of anti-discrimination laws. Federal laws generally hold that anti-discrimination laws still apply to a worker even when a worker is hired through a temporary employment agency for a short-term seasonal project.
Being a contingent worker may sometimes make handling a discrimination claim much more difficult than if the worker is a full-time employee. This especially applies in cases where the employee is staffed by a temporary employment agency, rather than by the company itself.
The first step in these cases is to determine whether it is the temporary employment agency or the actual company hirer that can be held liable for the discriminatory conduct. In certain cases, it will be clear that the business who hired the employee is liable for the discrimination. This is especially true in cases where there is a past history of discriminatory behavior within a company’s hiring process or if it can be supported by the company’s hiring statistics.
On the other hand, the temporary employment agency may be held liable if they uphold discriminatory policies and do not report the company. In these cases, both the business and the temporary employment agency may be held liable for the discrimination.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues Involving Contingent Worker’s Rights?
It is crucial to have the assistance of an contract lawyer for any issues involving a contingent worker’s rights. Many individuals have become contingent workers due to recent economic conditions.
If you are a contingent worker, you are afforded many of the same rights and protections that a full-time employee has. If you are a contingent worker, your attorney can advise you regarding your rights, review your employment contractor, or file a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary.