Friday, January 08, 2016

When companies hire temp workers by race, black applicants lose out

By Will Evans / January 6, 2016

By all accounts, Automation Personnel Services Inc. aims to please its customers.

For just over a quarter-century, the Alabama-based temp agency has provided temporary workers to industrial companies and warehouses in the South, and its dedication to clients shines through its motto: “We built our success helping you succeed.”

But that focus on customer service can be treacherous. When its clients wanted to hire temp workers based on race, sex or age, Automation was happy to oblige, according to dozens of former employees.

Often, the practice was blatant. A manager at a Georgia manufacturing plant asked Christie Ragland not to send him “any black thugs,” she said. Ragland, a former Automation office manager until early 2015, said her boss told her to give the client what he wanted. And in Memphis, Tennessee, Josie Hernandez said her branch manager would comment, “Don’t hire that damn nigger,” and ordered her to send only Latinos to a flower delivery company.

Other times, Automation staff members used veiled language. At the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, branch, a request for white men was known as an order for “country boys,” according to three former employees.

Whether it was a preference for Latino workers or for whites only, the people on the losing end usually were black, according to former employees at branches in six states. Automation would send out black workers – to the employers who would accept them, they said. Sometimes, they were channeled into inferior positions. And if there wasn’t an opening at willing companies that day, black workers would be out of luck.

As tensions mount over racial injustice in America, Reveal found a pattern endemic to the temp industry of racist, sexist and otherwise discriminatory hiring – a practice the top federal regulator acknowledges is growing and difficult to combat.


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