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California bill to protect temporary workers

Assembly bill 1897 passed the California legislature on Aug. 28, bringing it one step closer to being made law. The bill would establish penalties for companies whose temporary workers are cheated by the subcontractors and temp agencies that are technically their employers.

The bill was introduced after a 2013 investigation by news organization ProPublica indicated that temporary workers faced a higher risk of suffering on-the-job injuries than other workers and that some were being paid less than minimum wage after adjustment for fees that came out of the workers' pockets. Supporters of the legislation include the California Labor Federation and the Teamsters union.

The president of the Teamsters called the legislation a step toward the prevention of a 21st century scam whereby corporations deny basic worker rights by contracting with agencies to bring in temporary workers. Labor officials have noted that temporary workers are increasingly involved in the performance of the core businesses of the companies to which they are sent. Hotels, for example, are more often using temporary workers to clean rooms; warehouses are using them to load and unload trucks.

According to a West Covina assemblyman, the proposed law would make companies subject to fines if the temp agencies that they hire fail to provide workers' compensation insurance or fail to pay minimum wage to their employees. There are some exemptions. Opponents of the bill, including the California Chamber of Commerce, have argued that it may punish businesses that are unaware of or do not have control over violations.

The bill proceeded to the governor who could either veto it or sign it into law. Those who have questions regarding the bill may wish to contact a workers' compensation attorney for further details. Such an attorney could help interested parties to understand the likely impact of the proposed law or to pursue recovery for workplace injuries or wage violations.

Source: San Diego Free Press, "California Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Temp Workers", Michael Grabell, August 30, 2014

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