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Handle With Care

Office temps--what you need to know about the legal rights of these fleeting employees.

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This story appears in the March 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When crunch time comes and your business is short-handed, a quick call to a temporary employment agency puts willing workers at your doorstep. So far, so good--but what if one of these temp workers turns out to be a poor match? Simply asking the agency to send a replacement might solve the problem. Then again, it might subject your business to liability for unlawful termination.

Temporary employees have the same rights as any other employee to sue over illegal discrimination, sexual harassment, ADA violations or labor disputes. "Employers mistakenly think temporary employees have fewer legal rights," says Brent Giddens, an employment attorney with the Los Angeles office of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal. Unfortunately, employers and co-workers often give temporary employees little consideration or respect, and supervisors often feel they can have these employees removed without consequence. That attitude can lead to costly lawsuits.

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