New Obligations Under New Jersey’s Temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights by Karol Corbin Walker, Esq., and Nicholas J. Falcone, Esq.
Temporary staffing firms and businesses that employ their services are faced with new obligations under New Jersey’s new Temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights law. The law (A1474/S511), which is being touted as the first in the nation, significantly strengthens protections for an estimated 127,000 temporary laborers in the State of New Jersey.
Under the law, covered temporary workers cannot be paid less than the average rate of pay and average cost of benefits, or the cash equivalent thereof, of employees of the third-party client performing the same or substantially similar work on jobs where the performance requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.
Additionally, at the request of a temporary worker, temporary help service firms must hold daily wages and provide biweekly pay checks to avoid unnecessary check cashing fees that eat away at earnings, according to Governor Phil Murphy’s office. Firms must provide written notification of the right to request biweekly checks, and cannot charge for check cashing fees, consumer reports, criminal background checks, or drug tests. Checks must be drawn on a financial institution where arrangements have been made for the temporary laborer to cash the check, with the temporary employment firm paying any fee associated therewith. The bill also prohibits pay deductions for meals and equipment that would reduce temporary workers’ pay below minimum wage. The deduction of meal and equipment charges are restricted.
The intent behind the law is to protect a population that is particularly vulnerable to abuse of their labor rights “including unpaid wages, failure to pay for all hours worked, minimum wage and overtime violations” among other unfair practices, according to the law’s language. The Bill of Rights, which fully went into effect on Aug. 5, impacts temporary laborers placed by a temporary help service firm to perform work in certain occupational categories.
Temporary laborer as defined by the law means “a person who contracts for employment for employment in a designated classification placement with a temporary help service firm.” The impacted occupational categories as designated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor are:
Other Protective Service Workers (33-90000);
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations (35-0000);
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations (37-0000);
Personal Care and Service Occupations (39-0000);
Construction Laborers (47-2060);
Helpers, Construction Trades (47-30000);
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations (49-0000);
Production Occupations (51-0000);
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations (53-0000); or,
any successor categories as the Bureau of Labor Statistics may designate.
The law imposes certain notice requirements for temporary help service firms. Among requirements, the temporary help service firm must now provide workers with a statement that contains certain required information in English, as well as the language identified by the worker as their primary language. This information includes the name, address and telephone number of the temporary help service firm, the worksite employers or third-party client, the name and nature of the work to be performed and the wages offered.
Third-party employer clients must provide temporary laborers who are contracted to work only a single day with a verification form (Form MW-51S) at the end of the work day. Temporary staffing agencies are required to provide two other forms: Form MW-23, a “Temporary Laborer Assignment Notification” and Form MW-24S, a “Temporary Laborer Itemized Statement of Earnings, Hours and Deductions,” which must be provided with each wage payment.
There are also recordkeeping requirements if the temporary help service firm sends one or more persons to work as temporary laborers. They must keep certain records related to the transaction including the name, address, and telephone number of the third party client including each worksite which temporary laborers were sent by the temporary help service firm and for each temporary laborer the name and address, the specific location went to work, the type of work performed, the number of hours worked, the hourly rate of pay, and the date sent. Third-party clients must also remit this information to the temporary help service no later than seven days following the last day of the work week worked by the temporary laborer. These records must be maintained by the temporary help service firm for six years from the date of their creation.
Other provisions of the law that temporary help service firms and employer clients should be aware of:
Firms and their clients may not retaliate, through discharge or in any other manner, any worker who exercises their rights under this law.
These firms and their clients may not charge temporary workers for their transportation to or from a worksite, with certain exceptions.
These firms may not obstruct their workers’ rights to seek employment elsewhere, including with their third-party clients, and may not inhibit their clients from hiring those workers. But the firm may charge a placement fee to the client in such cases.
Temporary employment firms must advise temporary laborers of a strike or any labor dispute at an assigned work site, in writing, and the temporary employee has a right to refuse the assignment.
Temporary help service firms must be certified by the Division of Consumer Affairs within the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.
Employers may not enter into a contract for temporary help services with a company that is not certified by the Division of Consumer Affairs. Employers are responsible for verifying the registration status of a temporary help service firm.
Private Right of Action
Outside of filing a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Labor, temporary laborers also have a private right of action and can bring a civil action to the Superior Court in the county where a violation occurred, or in which the worker lives. The NJDOL provides more details of the Bill of Rights on its website.
Kaufman Dolowich Can Assist
The Bill of Rights imposes many new obligations on both temporary help service firms and their employer clients in New Jersey. If you need help navigating the nuances of the law, our team of skilled employment law attorneys at Kaufman Dolowich can help.