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Temporary Employment Contracts Violating Employee Rights

The Sacramento Transit Riders Union (Sac TRU) opposes SacRT’s extensive use and repeated extension of ‘Temporary Employment’ contracts, as seen in Board Item 5 on March 12, 2018. We believe riders will be best served by well trained, fairly compensated employees subject to the oversight and protections of an employee.

Temporary employee contracts are supposed to be for those who do short-term work, not 5 years of work overseeing essential programs that include transit system safety, security, and disaster response projects.

SacTRU thinks that the economic realities of this work and the growing relationship transform this role from a contractor to that of an employee, exposing SacRT to liability. The Supreme Court has indicated that there is no single rule or test for determining whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor for purposes of FLSA, but rather the totality of the working relationship is determinative, meaning that all facts relevant to the relationship between the worker and the employer must be considered. Such factors include the permanency of the worker’s relationship with the employer; the extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business; and the nature and degree of control by the employer. There are certain factors which are immaterial in determining the existence of an employment relationship. For example, the fact that the worker has signed an agreement stating that he or she is an independent contractor is not controlling because the reality of the working relationship – and not the label given to the relationship in an agreement – is determinative. We think the ongoing length of this contract, the repetitive annual increase of $70k, the essential nature of the work, the control exerted by RT, the lack of technical expertise required to complete the work, SacRT’s stated purpose of denying the worker benefits for cost saving reasons, and the growing relationship between the temporary employee in this specific case and SacRT transform this temporary employment contract into an employee relationship and expose SacRT to certain liabilities.

SacTRU understands that occasionally SacRT may have a need for technical support and require help to supplement staff resources. However, we believe that it is disingenuous and potentially exposes SacRT to liability to hire contractors as limited term or temporary for multiple years of work while denying them access to benefits available to other employees. Cost savings does not justify denying workers the rights and protections required under the law. Additionally, we believe that investing in limited term employees and contingent employment undermines the value of SacRT’s role as a government agency and public service employer. Section 13(c) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act requires state and local governments to make “fair and equitable” arrangements to preserve transit workers exercising collective-bargaining rights as a condition of receiving federal assistance.

Additionally, we are concerned that this woman is being denied the protections and rights of an employee, the necessary training, and promotional opportunities because of this unjust relationship. This is of particular concern given SacRT’s documented history of failing to hire, train, and promote women for decades.

We believe that riders will be best served by well-trained employees that receive fair wages and benefits under a reasonably negotiated contract. Full-time employment opportunities improve the RT’s ability to recruit and retain qualified employees. The retention of experienced employees means better service to the public.

SacTRU opposes creating a workforce of limited term employees at Regional Transit and finds serious problems in extending unjust temporary employment contracts.

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