Background. Evidence on the health-damaging effects of precarious employment is limited by the use of one-dimensional approaches focused on employment instability. This study assesses the association between precarious employment and poor mental health using the multidimensional Employment Precariousness Scale. Methods. Cross-sectional study of 5679 temporary and permanent workers from the population-based Psychosocial Factors Survey was carried out in 2004-2005 in Spain. Poor mental health was defined as SF-36 mental health scores below the 25th percentile of the Spanish reference for each respondent's sex and age. Prevalence proportion ratios (PPRs) of poor mental health across quintiles of employment precariousness (reference: 1st quintile) were calculated with log-binomial regressions, separately for women and men. Results. Crude PPRs showed a gradient association with poor mental health and remained generally unchanged after adjustments for age, immigrant status, socioeconomic position, and previous unemployment. Fully adjusted PPRs for the 5th quintile were 2.54 (95% CI: 1.95-3.31) for women and 2.23 (95% CI: 1.86-2.68) for men. Conclusion. The study finds a gradient association between employment precariousness and poor mental health, which was somewhat stronger among women, suggesting an interaction with gender-related power asymmetries. Further research is needed to strengthen the epidemiological evidence base and to inform labour market policy-making. © 2013 Alejandra Vives et al.