Last year, we looked at how Labor Day is the celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers and wondered if our laws will protect the rights of all labor, including temporary workers. After all, their contribution to the prosperity and well-being of our country are no less significant than what permanent workers offer. Affirming this belief and in time for Labor Day, the California legislature passed a bill in the last week of August which holds companies legally responsible if the staffing agencies they hire – or the subcontractors of those staffing agencies – cheat workers out of earned wages or disregard their safety.
With the rapid growth of temporary staffing, more industries are turning to the use of “non-employee” workers. Some of them were found to be charging fees which bring temporary workers’ earnings below minimum wages. Some were found to be misclassifying agricultural workers as independent contractors, depriving them of pay, benefits and safe working conditions. Despite claims that the bill would make it harder to do business in California, as it punishes companies for violations which they know nothing about and have no ability to prevent, the bill made its way to the Governor’s desk for final approval.
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also warned against wage theft, revealing that his Labor Bureau has recovered more than $17 million on behalf of nearly 14,000 workers, and collected $2 million in penalties when enforcing the state’s labor laws. This issue is not confined to small and medium employers trying to cut corners – it has involved some of the biggest names in business, according to a New York Times report.
According to some estimates, contingent workers will grow to 40 to 50 per cent of the total workforce by 2020 as both employers and workers prefer such a working relationship. Work will become more flexible as technology enables remote delivery from any location. Workers would do short stints, learn as much as possible even as they deliver to target and leave at the end of their assignment.
Temporary work is here to stay. While some people look upon this phenomenon in a negative light, we have always felt that it is positive for so many reasons:
However, companies must recognize that non-employees are protected by the same rights and privileges as all workers. Those who fail to adhere to government regulations regarding classification, compensation, safety and worker rights will quickly find that the penalties for non-compliance can be severe.
If you are unsure of whether certain legislation applies to non-employees, we encourage you to seek qualified legal counsel.
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