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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Guidelines for temporary positions help protect staff

For several years, Human Resources has monitored temporary staffing within the University. Some issues of concern regarding temporaries continue to occur including policy, financial, and ethical matters. This article will clarify the issues and recommend procedures for hiring and utilizing temporary staff in the future.

Policies and definitions

Business Office Memorandum No. 66 (12/01/60) defines a temporary employee as:

One who is employed for a limited period during the year, or whose employment is intermittent, irregular, casual or seasonal, and which may be either full time or part time during the period employed. All student employees shall be considered as �Temporary Employees.�

Business Office Memorandum No. 154 (7/13/73) provides further clarification: �Regular employees are those in continuing positions which are:

50.0% or more of a normal workweek for a 12-month period,

54.6% or more of a normal workweek for an 11-month period,

60.0% or more of a normal workweek for a 10-month period,

66.7% or more of a normal workweek for a 9-month period.�

The policy continues, �Those employees whose work schedules do not meet the criteria established for Regular will be classified as Temporary.� Finally, the policy states, �Regular clerical and service staff members shall be eligible for staff benefits��

These policies, in concert, suggest that any employee working more than half time of a normal 40-hour workweek (1,040 hours per year) or the equivalent on an ongoing basis should be classified as regular and earn University benefits.

Ethical concerns

Oftentimes, in an effort to control the budget, managers decide to cut positions or create temporary positions to minimize labor costs. In some instances, where staffing is kept artificially low, temporary staffing has increased. This leads to the danger that the department is violating University policy and �taking advantage� of individuals by not granting them the benefits for which they qualify.

Benefits may include more than medical coverage and paid time off. Attendance at training programs and an opportunity for promotions may also be at stake. Many long-term temporary staff have no resume on file with Human Resource Services, which may indicate that they have no understanding of how to improve their situation. In some instances, employees have been discovered working as �temporaries� for several years while meeting the criteria for regular employment.

One interesting characteristic of the current pool of temporary staff is that several of those who are working a high number of hours annually are retirees. While casual consideration might assume those employees want to make some pocket money and have an opportunity to maintain social connections, discussion with supervisors who are willing to be candid seem to indicate that the real reason many retirees continue to work is to help pay for the high cost of medical coverage.

Human Resource Services recently requested legal counsel specifically on the issue of treating retirees differently than other temporaries. The recommendation was that all temporaries should be dealt with the same; otherwise, Purdue could be in jeopardy for �disparate treatment,� or discrimination against a protected class.

Financial issues

Purdue as a whole employs many student temporary workers. This relationship is a �win-win� situation for the University as well as the students. The campus utilizes a relatively inexpensive source of labor, and the students gain valuable work experience and financial support for college expenses.

This favorable relationship does not translate as well to non-student temporary employees. Most non-student applicants are interested in a long-term employment relationship. Applicants often accept a temporary assignment hoping to get a foot in the door and don�t understand Purdue�s responsibility to affirmative action and equal employment opportunity laws. In some cases, they become �attached� to a particular department and refuse to consider regular openings in other departments. In other instances, upon being laid off from a long-term assignment, they file for and receive unemployment compensation.

Security issues

We do not currently require that temporary staff be screened through Human Resources as applicants for regular employment are. This is not a problem per se, but can be a concern if supervisors fail to thoroughly interview and investigate the background of potential temporary employees. Unfortunately, minimal review happens quite frequently due to the managers� busy schedules or the tight labor market. This may lead to hiring any warm body that shows up interested in working.

Based on the nature of the work, certain positions are designated to undergo a criminal conviction records check--except for temporary staff. This is a serious breach of responsibility toward the safety of our faculty, staff, and students, as well as the public. In some instances, temporary staff have worked for a significant period, but were let go later when it was discovered that they had felony convictions for crimes such as theft, battery, child molestation, or dealing drugs.

Recommendations

To address these concerns, we suggest that hiring supervisors consider the following in order to make good decisions about staffing:

First, determine whether the need for staff is based on a short-term or irregular need or whether there is justification for creating a regular position.

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There are primarily two types of temporary work assignments. If temporary assignments are expected to continue indefinitely, managers must not schedule staff for more than 1,000 hours per year. Audits will be conducted to monitor this limitation.

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In the case of temporary assignments to cover for vacancies, special projects, seasonal workloads, or illness, assignments normally should not last more than one semester. Longer assignments should only occur with Human Resources authorization.

Then, at a minimum, all non-student temporary staff should submit a resume and be screened by Human Resource Services. Temporary staff obtained through the University�s temporary help service, Purdue Temporary Staffing, have all been appropriately screened.

In summary, these steps will help assure that temporary staff are aware of opportunities and are properly rewarded for their efforts. It will also make certain that Purdue is not taking advantage of employees.

- Sue Gibson
Human Resource Specialist
Housing and Food Services Human Resource Service Team

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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.