After allegations of discriminatory and predatory business practices were levied against five New York City-based employment agencies, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had to get involved. On July 11, Schneiderman’s office reached agreements with all five agencies, which should prevent them from engaging in a number of practices that violate the rights of their workers.

The agencies involved — Excellent Employment Agency, Patricia Employment Agency, Rivera Employment Agency, Sunset Employment Services, and United Employment Agency — targeted native Spanish speakers and funneled them into low-paying positions where they were earning as little as $3.75 an hour. They also charged referral fees and advance fees, which they would refuse to refund. The agreement the agencies reached with the Attorney General’s office requires them to halt these discriminatory practices, as well as go through training, make official changes to their policies and procedures and pay $20,000 in fines.

Particularly in the current economic climate, many individuals have turned to temporary employment agencies as a way of securing employment and necessary income, and immigrant groups are no exception. An employment agency, like any company, is obligated not to discriminate, either by honoring clients’ requests for workers fitting specific racial, sexual, gender, color, age, physical ability or religious profiles. But the structure of employment agencies and the relationship between temporary employees and their employers can be confusing, particularly when it comes to issues of discrimination. Who does a worker report to: the agency or the company to which they’ve been assigned?

Typically, a temporary worker is considered employed by the agency. But because a worker has a relationship with both the agency and the company where they were placed, discrimination should be reported to both. If this leads nowhere, then the appropriate government agency, typically the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, needs to know.

If you believe you have been discriminated against by a temporary agency, or while on assignment for such an agency, a New York City employment discrimination lawyer with the Derek Smith Law Group will provide information, support and guidance to help ensure you’re treated fairly.