What are working conditions like for temporary workers in Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois? According to a recent report from NPR Illinois, temp workers across the state have complained about unsafe working conditions, being subject to employment discrimination, and being denied wages or overtime pay. The report suggests that, while these problems exist in many parts of the country, they are particularly salient in Illinois given the state’s role in industry. For instance, the executive director of the advocacy organization Warehouse Workers for Justice designated Illinois as “the warehousing capital of the western hemisphere.” Similarly, the National Employment Law Project described how industrial work is extremely common in the state “due to the fact that Chicago is the only place in the world where six Class 1 railroads meet.” What types of laws are in place to protect temp workers in Illinois?
More Warehousing Work Means More Temporary Jobs
Due to the fact that so many new jobs in the Chicago area surround warehousing, this means that many new jobs have been taken by temporary workers. Indeed, according to the report, 63 percent of warehouse workers in Chicago are working on a temporary basis. In addition, between the years 2009 and 2013, there were 45,000 temporary jobs added in Chicago—many of those in warehousing—which accounted for about 40 percent of all job growth in that period. Why is there a problem with having such a high percentage of temporary workers?
The problems associated with temp work typically do not affect employers in the same way that they affect those temp workers. To be sure, in the area of temporary employment, it is usually the temp workers who end up losing. The report explains: “Because staffing agencies only do one thing: provide labor, the corners that get cut tend to be worker’s wages, workers’ comp coverage.” In other words, it is the workers who end up being denied workers’ compensation benefits when they get hurt on the job or denied overtime pay.
And sometimes temp workers sustain more significant legal injuries than being denied overtime pay. For instance, the article emphasizes that some temporary staffing agencies try to cut back on operating costs by charging workers for all kinds of requirements for employment—from the cost of a background check to the cost of a drug test. Moreover, numerous temporary staffing agencies have “been sued for discriminatory practices in hiring because they based screenings on race and gender.” Others, still, have been sued by temp workers for wage and overtime violations.
Proposed Legislation Aims to Provide Protections to Temp Workers
In response to the high number of temp workers in Illinois—and the numerous employment law concerns on record—one lawmaker in the state has introduced a new bill designed to amend the Illinois Day and Temporary Services Act. The bill, HB 690, contains “provisions to end wage theft, gender and race hiring discrimination, and issues of safety and health hazards.” However, the bill does not have a lot of support among other lawmakers, and particularly among temporary staffing agencies in the state.
If passed, the bill would do some of the following:
- Institute monetary penalties for health and safety violations of $50 (such violations currently incur no monetary fine);
- Require staffing agencies to provide demographic information about their workers;
- Encourage temporary staffing agencies to make an effort to place their workers in permanent jobs; and
- Prevent staffing agencies from charging workers for background check, credit checks, and drug tests.
Contact a Chicago Employment Law Attorney
If you are a temp worker who has been subject to employment discrimination, you should speak with an employment law attorney in Chicago as soon as possible. Contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline today.