Employer practices

Temporary Staffing Industry Testing Report

December 13, 2023
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The modern temporary staffing industry is a $186 billion sector heavily subsidized by public funds. Using matched-pair testing in Harris County, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, the National Legal Advocacy Network team found racial and gender discrimination in access to work at temporary staffing agencies.

Key findings:
  • Black and Latinx workers are overrepresented in the temporary staffing labor system, constituting 23.2 percent and 30.9 percent, respectively.
  • Temporary workers are often trapped in “permatemping” for a year or more. Agencies can charge fees when clients hire temps directly, encouraging this practice.
  • Black temporary workers and female temporary workers face job allocation discrimination. Agencies offer Latinx testers more job opportunities than Black workers and often exclude female workers from higher-paying positions.
  • Agency employees sometimes provide unequal information, warning Black workers about drug tests and behavior not conveyed to Latinx counterparts.
  • Public dollars heavily subsidize temporary staffing through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, providing agencies incentives to hire disadvantaged workers for low-paying positions.
  • Hiring through staffing agencies undermines good-quality and union jobs, with full-time temporary workers earning 41 percent less than permanent workers.
  • Staffing agencies evade responsibility for labor violations, leading to "corporate finger-pointing" and allowing corporations to sidestep legal accountability.
  • The report links the modern temporary staffing model to a racist history, comparing it with exploitative practices in sharecropping.