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When Companies Hire Temp Workers Based on Race, Black Candidates Lose Out

Black man at desk
Black man at desk

For many job seekers, using a temp agency is one of the most efficient and popular ways to find employment.

According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the temporary help services industry is at an all-time high of nearly 3 million workers a month, up from just over 1 million in 1990.

Unfortunately, because some companies want to hire workers based on race, African-Americans have received the short end of the stick.

“The problem is significant and growing,” said Jenny Yang, chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to Reveal News. The EEOC is charged with enforcing the federal ban on job discrimination.

“Staffing agencies are refusing to place African-American employees based on their race,” Yang said, “and they are terminating employees when they complain about that, as well as limiting assignments that individuals may have.”

Automation Personnel Services Inc. is one of the largest light-industrial staffing companies in the U.S., with 30 offices around the country.

Stephen Nordness, founder of Automation Personnel Services, said his company believes in treating people with integrity and maintaining a company culture of honesty and fairness. However, some of his branches have not selected African-American workers, per their client’s request.

According to former employees at branches in six states, Automation would send out black workers — to the employers who would accept them, Reveal News reports. Sometimes, they were channeled into inferior positions. And if there wasn’t an opening at willing companies that day, black workers would be out of luck.

Tim Cooper applied at Automation’s Chattanooga branch a few years ago. He never received a call back and was shocked to learn he was rejected because he is black.

“It’s very shocking, because you would think those days are over with,” he told Reveal News. “When they toss them résumés, they toss a whole lot of families out. It just don’t hurt that person, it hurts the people who are connected with them.”

One recruiter at Automation, Keara Parks, explained how Cooper was discriminated against.

Cooper was included in a handful of qualified résumés Parks says she took to Teresa Clark, an Automation sales rep. Before she left, Parks said, the sales rep asked her if any of the candidates were black. Parks said yes, identifying Cooper. She said Clark threw away his résumé, Reveal News stated.

This type of discrimination has been running rampant across the country.
A year ago, Kenny Flowers went to Most Valuable Personnel, part of Personnel Staffing Group, a chain based in the Chicago area, about four times looking for work. He has yet to get work.

He told WBEZ in Chicago that he spent hours in the waiting room. “I see more Latinos going out [on assignments] than I do African-Americans,” he says.

“The fact of the matter is that a lot of the regular employers basically want to contract out their discrimination,” Marc Bendick, a Washington economist who studies discrimination, said to Reveal News. “They know the workforce they want, but they don’t themselves want to violate workplace discrimination laws. They want clean hands.”

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