New Jersey employment laws protect workers against multiple kinds of abuses by employers, such as failure to pay minimum wage or overtime, requiring unpaid work time, and unlawful payroll deductions. Both state and federal statutes address wage and hour violations, but these protections only apply to “employees.” The legal definition of this term rarely includes temporary workers. A bill pending in the New Jersey Senate would create a “Temporary Workers Bill of Rights” that extends many of the legal protections enjoyed by employees to people who work for staffing agencies. The bill has faced multiple hurdles since its introduction in early 2022. While its future is uncertain, lawmakers in support of the bill say it still has a chance at passage.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (WHL) set a minimum wage for non-exempt employees. They also require employers to pay non-exempt employees time-and-a-half for any time they work over forty hours in a week. Neither statute has a detailed definition of “employee.” They both define the term as “any individual employed by an employer.” The protections offered by these laws often do not extend to individuals who work for staffing agencies contracted by other companies to provide temporary workers.
In the most recent version of the pending bill, A1474, the Legislature states several findings related to temporary workers and their working conditions. “[T]emporary help service firms, sometimes referred to as temp agencies or staffing agencies,” employ about 127,000 people in New Jersey. The state has licensed around one hundred temp agencies, while an unknown number of unlicensed agencies “operate outside the purview of law enforcement.” Temporary jobs are heavily concentrated in “service occupations,…production, transportation, and material moving occupations and manufacturing industries.”
According to the Legislature, full-time temporary workers “earn 41 percent less than workers in traditional work arrangements,” and they are far less likely to receive health insurance or other benefits. They are also “particularly vulnerable to abuse of their labor rights,” including minimum wage and overtime compensation.
The purpose of the bill is to end discriminatory practices among temp agencies, including pay discrimination based on race and gender. It would restrict agencies’ ability to withhold transportation and meal expenses from workers’ paychecks and require them to keep records of work assignments and locations. It would also require all temp agencies to register with the state. Temporary workers would be able to file lawsuits against both the temp agencies and the third-party companies for violations of their rights.
The New Jersey Legislature passed an earlier version of the bill in the summer of 2022, but the governor issued a conditional veto on September 22. He requested amendments to the bill regarding the registration requirements for temp agencies. The Assembly passed an amended bill on October 3 with the governor’s support. The Senate was scheduled to vote on the bill on October 17, but lawmakers canceled the vote at the last minute. Supporters of the bill say the Senate will take it up again.
If you are dealing with unlawful wage and hour practices at your job, you need an experienced and knowledgeable advocate who can help you assert your legal rights. The Resnick Law Group’s employment attorneys advocate for workers in New Jersey and New York. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.