A day laborer is someone who is hired to perform miscellaneous tasks for a project that is expected to end after a single day. These types of workers usually do not have any particular set of skills and are often hired to lend an extra hand on large farm labor operations, landscaping, or construction projects. Regardless of what a day laborer’s assignment is, a key factor to remember is that the job they are hired for typically will not last for longer than a day.

Given the fact that there is no promise of future work once a workday ends, day laborers are normally paid by either an hourly or daily rate, as opposed to a yearly salary. However, whether a day laborer collects daily or hourly wages, their base pay must at least meet the minimum wage standards imposed by the wage and hour laws enacted in their state.

A temporary worker on the other hand, also known as a temp worker or a contingent worker, is someone who is hired on a temporary basis. This type of employment arrangement is generally set to expire at some point in the near future. Unlike day laborers who are only hired for a single day, a temp worker’s job is usually based on a contract and thus could extend for up to a year or longer depending on the terms of their contract.

In some cases, a temp worker’s job may even persist for as long as a particular project lasts. For instance, a temporary worker may be hired to work on a long-term construction project, such as erecting a building or doing tasks that are part of a major home renovation project. Once the project is finished, the worker will no longer be needed since there will be no work left for them to complete.

In reviewing the above definitions, some questions that you can ask yourself in order to determine whether you are a day laborer or a temporary worker include the following:

  • How long the project that you were hired for is intended to last (e.g., a day versus six months);
  • Whether you need a particular set of skills to complete the work;
  • The nature of the work that you are performing;
  • Whether you signed a contract to do the work;
  • The manner in which you are paid (e.g., by the day versus by an agreed upon sum); and
  • Whether your work appears to be seasonal and/or centered around a holiday, or changes on a daily basis.

What Are My Rights as A Day Laborer or Temporary Worker?

In general, day laborers and temporary workers tend to have less rights than salaried employees. Some examples of rights that day laborers and temporary workers may enjoy, however, include the following:

  • They must be paid a wage that conforms to both the federal minimum wage as well as the minimum wage standard implemented by their state legislature;
  • They must be paid for every hour worked, regardless of whether a company approved the hours or not;
  • They must receive overtime pay for every hour worked after forty hours of work are performed in a given workweek;
  • They must be afforded safe and healthy working conditions; and
  • They must be protected from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

How Much Should I Be Paid?

As previously discussed, day laborers must be paid at least the minimum wage standard set in their state. This is also known as a “living wage”, which is an amount that reflects the local cost of living and the needs of the individual worker and/or their family members living in a particular area. Although minimum and living wage standards will vary by jurisdiction, they are typically higher than the federal minimum wage.

In some instances, such as when a worker is hired to complete a construction project, they may be entitled to collect a “prevailing wage”. A prevailing wage refers to the average wage that is paid to workers in a similar position for a given occupation. Thus, prevailing wage standards will be contingent on both job-specific and area-specific factors.

As for temporary workers, they may also be paid in accordance with living and minimum wage standards. However, most are usually paid under the amount that was agreed to when they signed a contract.

Can I Get Public Benefits?

In general, it is usually much harder to collect public benefits as a day laborer than as a temporary employee. However, both types of workers can face challenges when attempting to collect different types of public benefits. Although not every public benefit will be available to such workers, many temporary employees may be able to claim certain benefits if they are eligible based on their work status.

The best way to find out if a worker can claim public benefits is by reviewing the labor laws in their state. In most instances, a worker will be able to obtain some kind of public benefit if they can demonstrate that they have a valid social security number.

Can I Join A Union?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has previously stated that temporary workers may be included in and vote for the same kinds of collective bargaining standards that are given to full-time employees. The NLRB has also provided that temporary workers do not need to get permission from the temp agency or hiring company in order to do so.

In contrast, day laborers are not typically afforded the rights granted to unionized workers. This is usually due to lack of union representation. However, day laborers can seek support from day laborer centers in their community and may be eligible to receive protections under the wage and hour laws enacted in their home state.

Am I Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?

Day laborers and temporary employees may be eligible for workers’ compensation as well as state disability insurance if they work in a state that offers such benefits to these types of workers. In most cases, however, workers’ compensation is not available for temporary workers or day laborers unless special circumstances exist.

In general, there are three situations in which day laborers and temporary employees may be able to collect workers’ compensation for injuries they receive on the job. Specifically, this may include when one or more of the following conditions can be met or proven:

  • Although a day laborer or temporary employee may not be covered under a company’s workers’ compensation policy, they may be able to collect workers’ compensation from the temp agency or employment business that hired them to do a job on behalf of the company.
  • Another way that day laborers and temporary employees may be able to get compensation for injuries sustained while on the job is by bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the business or person who caused their injuries. In most cases, a worker will be permitted to file a lawsuit in court for damages if they are barred from receiving workers’ compensation under state laws and/or company policies.
  • One other way that a day laborer or temporary employee may be able to be reimbursed for their work-related injuries is by proving that the business who hired them violated a labor law in their state, which in turn, caused them to suffer injuries.

How Can I Protect And Expand My Rights as a Day Laborer or Temp Employee?

Whether an individual is considered to be a day laborer or a temporary employee, it is generally recommended that they take certain precautionary measures to ensure that their legal rights are protected. Some common examples of actions that day laborers and temporary employees should consider in order to protect their rights include the following:

  • Discussing work conflicts with other colleagues who may be experiencing the same issues in the workplace;
  • Reviewing workers’ rights under the laws in an individual’s jurisdiction and in regard to company policies;
  • Hiring an attorney to assess a specific situation and/or explain whether a worker’s rights are protected and what those rights are;
  • Asking for help with work-related issues from their human resources department; and
  • Contacting the North American Alliance for Fair Employment (NAAFE) for assistance with resolving concerns or problems in the workplace. Briefly, for those who are unfamiliar, NAAFE is made up of a group of organizations that offer support to workers and help make sure that certain workers, such as day laborers and temporary employees, continue to make progress in the workplace.

Do I Need An Employment Lawyer?

You may want to consider hiring a local contract attorney if you believe your rights as a day laborer or temporary worker have been violated. An experienced employment attorney in your area will already be familiar with the relevant laws in your jurisdiction. Thus, your attorney will be able to inform you of your rights and can advise you on your legal options or protections.

Your attorney will be able to assist you in drafting and filing any necessary legal forms. Your attorney can also review any legal documents that may help your employment claim, such as an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, your attorney can provide legal representation in court as well as during any other conferences related to your employment law matter.