What Are My Rights as a Temporary Employee in California?

What Are My Rights as a Temporary Employee in California?

Employers hire temporary workers, or “temps,” for a multitude of legitimate reasons. Sometimes, however, they use an employee’s temporary designation to exploit them and avoid paying important benefits.

What Is a Temp?

A temp is someone who provides services for an employer on a temporary basis. They may be hired directly or through a staffing agency. All temps must be provided certain benefits in California, like unemployment and workers’ compensation. These should come directly from the temp’s employer, or from the staffing agency. Many temps prefer to work with an agency because while they are temps at their physical workplaces, they are employees of the staffing agency, and thus entitled to more benefits.

Dual Employment

When a temp is employed by a staffing agency, or primary employer, and working for a secondary employer, both companies share responsibility for the temporary employee’s safety and health on the job. If the temp is injured at work, their primary employer might pay out their workers compensation benefits, but both employers could be responsible for any negligence involved in the accident.

Additionally, both primary and secondary employers can be held liable for workplace discrimination.


While there is no time limit for how long an employee may work on a “temporary” basis, long-term temps may pursue legal action.

For example, Microsoft once hired a collection of temps and allowed them to continue working at the company for years at a time. When these so-called “permatemps” asked for the same benefits as regular employees, Microsoft denied their request and cited their temporary status. The permatemps then filed a class-action lawsuit. In 2000, they were awarded $97 million in a settlement, or about $10,000 per temp.

If temps are treated like regular employees, they may also sue for misclassification. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a collection of leased workers at PG&E to be PG&E employees, even though they were also employed with staffing agencies.

Experts advise employers to establish time limits for temps, clarify expectations, and avoid treating them like regular, full-time employees for an indefinite amount of time; or simply change their employment status after a few months. If an employer has worked with a temp for more than 90 days and still needs temporary services, they should consider replacing the temp to avoid exploitation.

All Workers Have Rights on the Job

In California, all workers are protected by labor laws, regardless of their employment status. Employees are entitled to:

  • Minimum wage and overtime
  • Rest and meal breaks
  • Paid sick time
  • Safe and healthy jobs
  • Workers comp benefits
  • Unemployment benefits

If a worker is being deprived of these rights, they are also allowed to take action without being punished or retaliated against.

How to Get Help

Temporary employees are protected by the state of California. If you believe your rights are being violated or you are misclassified as a temp, you should speak to an employment lawyer right away.

At Ufkes & Bright, we can help you file a workers’ comp claim, or obtain benefits that you were improperly denied. Collectively, we have been working in employment law for over 50 years and our firm has a long track record of success.

Get started today with a phone call to  (714) 500-8661 or request a free case review online.