Posted in: Industry News

Bill Extending Protections to Temporary Workers Heads Toward Passage in California

Posted on Friday, August 1, 2014

In California, the state Assembly has passed legislation that would hold companies responsible for the employment conditions of its contracted, temporary workers that are employed through staffing agencies. CA AB 1897, currently pending in the Senate, would require client employers to share legal responsibility with labor contractors for any wage violations, on-the-job injuries, workers’ compensation coverage, and tax contributions. Labor advocates argue that temporary workers are more frequently subject to unsafe working environments, have higher rates of on-the-job injuries, and are not always paid their full wages by the agencies employing them. However, there are already laws in place to regulate staffing agencies and this bill could leave companies liable for situations out of their control. Though the bill contains an exemption for companies with fewer than 25 employees, most companies who utilize contracted workers would be affected by the legislation. If enacted, experts anticipate the law will create significant burdensome litigation because a violation of the act would bring a potential representative action under the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA).

In 2012, legislation aimed at protecting temporary workers but targeted mainly at staffing agencies was signed by Governor Patrick (D) in Massachusetts. The Temporary Workers’ Right to Know Act requires staffing agencies to provide workers with information about their employers, a description of the type of work they will be doing, the workplace environment, their pay rate, and expected duration of employment. Recently, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also taken steps to provide protections to temporary workers and published the first bulletin under their Temporary Worker Initiative. The bulletin clarified that the host employer and staffing agency are jointly responsible for providing a safe working environment for temporary workers. Given the recent OSHA rulemaking and activity in California and Massachusetts, it is likely that several more states will introduce legislation advocating protections for temporary workers during the legislative sessions in 2015.