Wage and hour violations of temp workers increasing in Illinois

The temporary staffing industry is growing in Chicago and across the state. The number of workers employed by temporary staffing agencies increased by a third over the last five years, according to U.S. Census data.

Class-action lawsuits filed recently detail some of the minimum wage and overtime violations faced by temporary workers. Interviews conducted as part of an investigation by The Chicago Reporter turned up many stories of unpaid work and limited redress through state wage claims.

Legislation to address the problem

California could become the first state to hold a company responsible for the actions of the temp agencies or subcontractors it hires. The law would provide a remedy for temp workers if an agency failed to pay wages or provide workers' compensation.

During the hearing on the proposed law, workers testified about wage violations. A temporary housekeeper recounted how she sometimes had to clock out and then finish cleaning rooms to meet her quota. When she complained, she was told not to come back by the property franchise owner.

In Massachusetts, some temporary workers packaging goods destined for a major fast food restaurant did not receive overtime from their temp employer. They were told that the packaging company did not pay enough, so the agency could not pay overtime.

Illinois along with at least ten other states regulate temp and day labor agencies. In Illinois, these agencies are required to register with the state.

Class-action lawsuit on its way to the Supreme Court

The courts are also hearing cases that relate to temporary workers. The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a wage and hour case related to an Amazon.com warehouse. The workers were temporary employees of Integrity Staffing Solutions. The staffing agency supplied workers for Amazon warehouses during busy times of the year.

These temporary workers needed to go through security checkpoints every time they entered or exited the warehouse as a theft prevention measure. Because there were not enough checkpoints, the wait time could take up to half-hour during the peak season.

A U.S. District Court initially dismissed the worker's motion holding that the security screening was similar to punching a clock at the end of a shift. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed concluding that the screenings were required and performed for "Integrity's benefit."

Integrity argued in Supreme Court filings that the screenings were similar to walking in from a parking lot and not compensable because they are "fundamentally distinct from employees' actual job duties." Oral arguments and a decision are expected later this year.

Small violations may not seem like much on one day. Class-action lawsuits are often the only way to hold an employer responsible, because they bind all the small violations together. These wage violation cases are complicated; seek the assistance of an experienced employment law attorney if you suspect violations.