Can a temp be released for reporting hostile behavior?

I was placed with a company through a staffing agency where I was told I would be until the first of the year. I worked there for 10 weeks and the person I reported to was condescending and hostile from the first day. I said not a word the whole time. After my first and only call-in sick day, the person accused me of lying about being sick. I went to HR to ask if this was acceptable behavior and they told me it was not, and they would take care of it. The next day I was let go due to lack of work. Is this breach of contract? Was I in a hostile work environment?

Asked on October 14, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First, did you actually have a contract? Being told you would have work unitl the first of the year does not necessarily create an enforceable contract. It might, if you gave up something to take the position, and your decision to do so was based in part on alleged duration. On the other hand, if you had already taken the job, or were definitely taking the job anyway, when they told you this, it was probably a mere expectation or promise, not a contract, and would not be enforceable. However, the specifics of what exactly you were told, and when you were told this, are very important, so you may wish to consult with an employment attorney, who can evaluate the situation, and whether you had a contract, in detail.

Second, if you don't have a contract, then you would only be protected if you were fired for reporting hostile behavior based on your race, sex, religion, age over 40, disability, etc. Otherwise, your empoyer may be hostile to you, and may fire you for complaining about it. So without a contract, it is likely you could be fired as you describe.


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