Department of Labor Goes After Employers Using Temps to Skirt Labor Laws

 One of the biggest shifts to take place in the work force in recent years has been the rise of the freelancer economy. More and more people are opting out of the traditional workforce and choosing instead to work as temps, contractors, and subcontractors so that they can maintain their sense of independence and flexibility in the hours that they work. Though doing so provides them with tremendous freedoms, it also gives employers the ability to take advantage. In recognition of the fact that many companies are violating labor laws in spirit if not in actuality (as the abuses are being perpetrated on contractors rather than employees), the Department of Labor has issued new guidance highlighting the responsibilities that employers continue to have. At Brown & Connery, our law firm is here to stand by and stand up for those who have been victims of labor law abuses.

Though companies that are using contractors to get their jobs done may think themselves safe from labor laws because the workers they are taking advantage of are not on their payroll, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division director, David Weil, says that companies should think of themselves as collaborating with the temp companies or contractors that are providing them with their labor force and writing the pay checks.  He warns that they will be enforcing the laws where they find companies that are functionally controlling workers, even if they aren’t on their payroll. For example he cites violations of rules regarding overtime pay, which are happening frequently in situations where employees are employed by multiple subsidiaries of the same company, and promises that the organizations will find themselves facing civil penalties and having to pay back wages and damages.

Weil says that the industries where violations are most likely to occur seem to be shipbuilding, construction and agriculture, and that jobs in those particular industries are ironically those that are also at highest risk for injury.  The federal government is finding themselves fighting the same types of employer abuses as those facing the IRS, which constantly battles employers classifying employees as independent contractors in order to avoid having to pay payroll taxes.

Though employers may chafe at the imposition of guidelines that steer them into compliance with laws they thought that they could skirt, it provides a relief for temporary and contract workers who felt largely unrepresented and unprotected. Despite the fact that they are not officially employees of these organizations, they are still entitled to workers’ protections that are provided by federal laws. If you feel that you are being taken advantage of as a result of your employment status, the labor law attorneys at Brown & Connery can help. Contact us today to set up a time for a comprehensive consultation.