Proposed law would add legal protection for temp workers

Frank S. Clowney III

Temporary workers and subcontractors in California will receive new legal protections if a bill proposed on May 30 is adopted. Labor leaders say that many large companies avoid their responsibilities under California law by hiring their workers indirectly through temporary agencies or smaller entities. This can lead to workers being paid less, being denied meal breaks and not receiving overtime pay.

Workers in these situations also suffer frequent on the job injuries, and they usually have to take up their grievances with a temp agency. This leaves them in a position where they rarely have any legal recourse against the companies that they are actually performing the work for. While legislation is on the books to regulate the activities of temporary agencies in at least 10 states, the proposed California law would go one significant step further. The bill would make the companies contracting with the temporary agency responsible if a temporary worker is not paid correctly or denied any of their other legal rights.

The bill faces a potentially turbulent journey to the governor’s desk. While labor leaders applaud the initiative, the business community is less enthusiastic. A representative from the Chamber of Commerce is already on record as saying that the businesses in California are already highly regulated and workers are adequately protected by current laws. However, this position is not borne out by an investigation by ProPublica that found temp agencies among the most frequent violators of hour and wage laws.

Workers denied their rights under California law may pursue civil remedies against the employer responsible. However, many businesses are adept at skirting regulations, and holding them accountable may sometimes be a challenge. An attorney with knowledge of employment laws could be a fierce advocate for employees who have been misclassified or treated unfairly.

Source: Voxxi, “California considers bill to protect temporary workers”, Michael Grabell, June 01, 2014