Yesterday New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed into law the “Temporary Worker Bill of Rights.” This law provides new legal protections to the estimated 127,000 individuals employed by temporary staffing agencies in New Jersey.
The Temporary Worker Bill of Rights aims to eliminate pay disparities and increase oversight of temporary staffing agencies. Data cited in the law’s findings and declarations sections indicate that a disproportionate number of staffing agency employees are Black or Latino. Further, according to the bill, temporary workers are less likely to receive employer-sponsored health and other benefits and more likely to experience unsafe working conditions, wage and hour violations, and other unlawful workplace practices.
The legislation was introduced on December 6, 2021, and initially was passed by both houses on August 8, 2022. However, Gov. Murphy conditionally vetoed it in September. The State Assembly quickly adopted his recommendations, and passed the amended bill in October. The amended bill passed the Senate on February 2.
The law applies to non-exempt workers assigned by a temporary staffing agency to perform work in the following occupational categories (as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics):
Protective Service Workers
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
Personal Care and Service Occupations, Construction Laborers
Helpers, Construction Trades
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
Effective dates and requirements
The notice and anti-retaliation provisions will take effect on May 7. The other provisions will take effect on August 5.
Effective May 7:
Temporary staffing agencies must provide written notice to temporary workers at the time of each new assignment containing the following information:
The name, address, and telephone number of the staffing agency, its workers’ compensation carrier, the worksite employer or third party client, and the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The name and nature of the work to be performed.
The wages offered.
The name and address of the assigned worksite.
The terms of transportation offered.
A description of the position and whether it will require any special clothing, protective equipment, and training, and who will pay for those.
Whether a meal or equipment, or both, are provided, and who will pay.
The length of the assignment.
The amount of sick leave to which temporary workers are entitled.
Temporary workers must also be provided with advance notice of any change in the schedule, shift, or location of a multi-day assignment. They must also receive notice before they are sent to any place where a strike, lockout, or labor dispute exists, and must be given the right to refuse the assignment.
Additionally, upon request, the worker must be given written confirmation for any day that the worker sought work but was not assigned work.
Temporary service agencies that violate this section face a fine of up to $500 for the first violation and up to $1,000 for subsequent violations.
It will be unlawful to retaliate against temporary workers for exercising their rights under the law. This includes a complaint to the staffing agency or the client company, as well as instituting or participating in any proceeding related to the Temporary Workers Bill of Rights.
Violation of this provision can result in an administrative penalty of $250 for the first violation and $500 for each subsequent violation.
Effective August 5:
For temporary workers who are contracted to work a single day, the client employer must provide a work verification form containing the identity of the client employer, the rate of pay, the number of hours worked, and deductions.
If the worker requests it, wages must be paid bi-weekly. The payments must be in a single check or by direct deposit.
If a temporary worker is assigned to work at a location but not provided with work, the worker must be paid for a minimum of four hours unless sent to another location to work, in which case the worker must be paid for a minimum of two hours.
Temporary service agencies that violate this section face a fine of up to $500 for each violation. A client employer that fails to provide work verification can face a fine of up to $500 for the first violation and $2,500 for each subsequent violation.
No Transportation Fees
Staffing agencies and their clients may not charge fees to temporary workers for transportation to or from the designated work site. Charging a transportation fee can result in a fine up to $5,000 per violation.
Certification with the Division of Consumer Affairs
In addition, the bill requires all temporary staffing agencies to be certified by the Division of Consumer Affairs, which will be require the agencies to provide proof of unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance.
A temporary staffing agency that places workers without this certification can be fined up to $5,000 per violation.
Agreements with client companies
There are provisions of the bill that will affect agreements between staffing agencies and their clients. Notably, the law prohibits any restrictions on a temporary worker’s ability to be hired in a permanent position with the client but does allow the staffing agency to impose a “placement fee.” The placement fee cannot be more than the daily commission rate that the agency would have received over a 60-day period.
The bill also requires clients to reimburse temporary staffing agencies for the cost of payroll taxes for services performed by temporary workers.
Finally, temporary staffing agencies and their clients will be jointly and severally responsible for violations of any of the provisions of the bill.
One of the most controversial provisions of the law, which sets it apart from similar legislation in Illinois and Massachusetts, is its equal pay requirement. The law prohibits paying a temporary worker less than the average rate of pay and average cost of benefits of the client’s regular employees for performing the same or substantially similar work under similar working conditions.
Violation of this provision can result in a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation.
Private right of action
Temporary workers, temporary staffing agencies, and client employers will have the right to file a lawsuit under the law within six years of any violation. Again, this right will not take effect until August 5.
Impact on businesses
Temporary staffing agencies and the companies that contract with them should begin to review their existing agreements to determine whether they need to make changes to ensure compliance.
In addition, these businesses should review their current payroll practices as they relate to temporary workers and carefully analyze whether they will need to make any changes, especially as they relate to pay statements, frequency of payments, and any deductions.