Regulating the Employment Sharks: Reconceptualizing the Legal Status of the Commercial Temp Agency

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This Article presents a historical and legal argument for reclassifying and regulating commercial staffing agencies as labor market intermediaries. Their current legal classification as employers is a major factor contributing to the exploitation of temps. The Article contrasts the deregulated environment for commercial staffing agencies with the extensive federal regulation of union hiring halls. Because these two institutions serve a similar function—providing access to the job market for short-term employees—both should be subject to comparable regulatory regimes in order to restore parity in the legal treatment of temporary employees by all parties to the employment relationship. A regulatory regime should impose on temporary help and staffing agencies a level of transparency and fiduciary obligations analogous to the duty of fair representation imposed on union hiring halls by federal labor law. Absent such legal reclassification, the staffing industry will remain unfairly privileged in the marketplace in a way that prevents fair treatment and representation for temps.

Recommended Citation

8 Working USA: J.Labor & Soc'y 293 (2005)