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An Illinois manufacturing firm agreed to a consent decree in a case that shows temporary workers count toward company size in determining whether a firm must abide by civil rights laws and that buyers can be held accountable for their staffing suppliers’ discrimination.
Illini Precast, a Westchester, Ill., manufacturer of prefabricated concrete construction panels, was charged by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with failure to engage any female temporary laborers at its Marseilles, Ill., facility.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a qualified woman applied for a general laborer position through Illini’s staffing provider in October 2008, but was denied employment due to her gender. Illini claimed that because it had fewer than 15 employees, it was not covered by the civil rights statutes and that it was not responsible for the placement of laborers at its facility because it had contracted with a staffing agency.
However, EEOC guidance and relevant case law holds that temporary workers may be counted when determining if a company has enough employees to come under the provisions of the civil rights laws and that companies can be held responsible for the discriminatory hiring practices of the temporary agencies on which they rely.
Under the terms of the decree, Illini will pay $27,682 to the applicant. The applicant had previously received $60,000 from the staffing agency that was involved.
“Employers are mistaken if they think they can ‘contract away’ their obligations under Title VII,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney in the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Temporary or staffing agencies are acting as their agents in providing them with workers. If the staffing agency is sending them only employees of one sex or one race, this should set off alarm bells. Employers should realize that this is likely a problem that they have to fix.”
In addition to paying the applicant, Illini will enter into a relationship with a local high school or vocational training program in order to encourage women to apply for work through staffing agencies used by Illini. Illini will also have to notify its staffing agencies that it is an equal opportunity employer and ensure that any advertisements also notify applicants that it is an equal opportunity employer.