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Temporary Employment Options for Persons with Disabilities

By: the U.S. Department of Labor

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), since 1996 the number of people working or available for hire has only increased at the rate of 1.1 percent a year. BLS projects that the rate of increase of the labor pool will continue to shrink until at least 2006 because of the aging of the population. The booming economy, coupled with the tight labor market, provides a challenge to the country's business sector. As a result, employers will need new strategies to find pools of talent, hire quickly and retrain staff if they are to keep their companies competitive. One strategy being used to address this problem is the services of temporary staffing agencies.

The staffing industry has expanded rapidly during the last 25 years. Temporary employment placement has increased from 165,000 people in 1972 to more than two million in 1995, reflecting an annual growth rate of more then 11 percent. Nine out of 10 U.S. businesses use the services of a staffing industry firm, according to a recent survey by Business and Legal Reports. More then one-third of the companies surveyed plan to increase their use of staffing industry services. The BLS estimates that between the years of 1994 and 2005, temporary employment opportunities will expand by more than 50 percent.

Temporary staffing agencies may be one answer to people with disabilities finding employment opportunities. Qualified persons with disabilities represent a largely untapped labor source. Although some companies are already having trouble finding employees to fill their jobs, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities continues to be high. The 1995 Census Bureau's Current Population Survey indicates that fewer than one-third of the country's more than 16 million working-age, non-institutionalized persons with disabilities are employed. Three-quarters of persons with disabilities currently unemployed would rather be working according to the National Organization on Disability 1998 Harris Poll.

In addition to matching candidates with jobs, temporary staffing agencies are taking on additional human resource functions including training and evaluation. Many temporary jobs become permanent. Temporary staffing agencies are not only strong sources of qualified, experienced employees, but are also becoming an important resource for linking people with disabilities to full-time employment opportunities.

Temporary Staffing and Hiring People with Disabilities

Temporary staffing agencies work with people with disabilities in the same way they work with people without disabilities. "The ADA did not impact our business dramatically. From inception, our company focused on what people can do in the work place. That is our business, and that is how we create shareholder value," says Mitchell Fromstein, Manpower Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

The focus of the job placement process for all applicants is on individual abilities, job skills and interests. The staffing industry uses job assessment services, temporary job assignments and work skills training to help individuals with and without disabilities find their employment niche. These services provide job seekers with opportunities to build a work history, experience different types of jobs, and increase their employment marketability and earning potential through enhancement of work skills.

The following features used by staffing agencies result in effective job placement for all persons:

  • Individualized applicant assessment procedures
  • Focus on individual abilities, job skills and interests
  • Systematized skill assessments for a variety of tasks
  • Matching employee skills to workplace demands based on an assessment of local customer needs
  • Individualized job training
  • Providing accommodations as part of the placement process

EEOC Policy Guidance

There is a lack of clarity concerning whether the employer or the temporary staffing agency is responsible for paying for accommodating temporary employees with disabilities. The following EEOC policy guidance may assist in this area.

* Title VII of the Civil Rights Act Policy Guidance, issued September 20, 1991, (IN-917-002), addressed what constitutes an employment agency; how charges against employment agencies should be investigated; and what remedies can be obtained for Title VII violations by these agencies. This guidance concludes that Title VII covers employment agencies, as well as employers, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin.

* EEOC's policy guidance on the concepts of integrated enterprise and joint employer, issued May 6, 1987 (N-915) clarifies that the identity of the employer is based on economic realities of the relationship and extent of the party's control over means and manner of an employee's performance.

Factors that can be used to determine economic realities and control are:

  • Level of skills required for the position
  • Location of the work
  • Duration of relationship of parties
  • Hiring party's rights to assign additional projects to employee
  • Extent of employee's discretion of how and how long to work
  • Method of payment
  • Whether hiring party is in business
  • Whether the work is part of hiring party's regular business
  • Whether hiring party provide benefits
  • Whether hiring party deducts employment-related taxes.

*EEOC's enforcement guidance on the Application of the ADA to Contingent Workers Placed by Temporary Agencies and Other Staffing Firms, issued December 22, 2000 (

* EEOC's enforcement guidance on the Application of EEO Laws to Contingent Workers Placed by Temporary Employment Agencies and Other Staffing Firms, issued December 3, 1997 (


Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC)
Technical Assistance: (800) 669-4000 (V) or (800) 669-6820 (TTY)
Documents: (800) 669-3362 (V) or (800) 669-3302 (TTY)
Office of Disability Employment Policy
(202) 693-7880 (V),
(202) 693-7881 (TTY),
(202) 693-7888 (FAX)
Study by Peter Blanck, J.D., Ph.D., Professor of Law, Medicine and Psychology, and Director, Law Health Policy and Disability Center, University of Iowa, College of Law, "The Emerging Role of the Staffing Industry in the Employment of Persons with Disabilities: a Case Report on Manpower, Inc.," 1998.