Temp Workers Right to Know Law
The people of Massachusetts urgently need decent jobs. A growing crop of temporary agencies are creating an underground economy that’s hurting hard-working employers, exploiting workers and stealing desperately needed tax revenue from the state’s coffers.
- In 2012, the US Department of Labor cited a staffing agency for failure to pay over $1.3 million in minimum wage and overtime payments to nearly 500 Massachusetts workers, employed at over 34 restaurants and one granite company.
- In 2010, the FBI charged owners of a Stoughton temp agency with paying their workers only in cash, avoiding over $7 million in taxes and hundreds of thousands in workers’ comp. premiums. This was the 2nd largest fraud case in the nation that year.
- In 2009, a Worcester temp agency owner was indicted on 66 counts of violating wage and hour laws, committing insurance and tax fraud, and failing to disclose over $11 million in cash wages to avoid workers’ comp, unemployment and corporate excise taxes.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Focus groups conducted by non-profits MassCOSH and Chelsea Collaborative revealed that temp agencies often send workers to dangerous jobs, provide little or no information about the job, and expose workers to wage and safety violations. Without a paper trail, workers have no ability to pursue their legal rights.
The Solution and a victory for Massachusetts
A Temporary Worker’s Right to Know Act, signed into law on August 6, 2012, is a win, win, win:
For Workers: The bill requires temp agencies to provide written notice of key details of job assignments for non-professional temp workers (professional workers are exempt), such as the name of the agency, the worksite employer, the type of work to be done, anticipated wages, the right to workers comp, and how to reach the Department of Labor Standards (DLS).
For Businesses: Temp agencies that play by the rules and treat their workers fairly are undercut by temp agencies who abuse their workers and make a profit from fees charged to temp workers. The bill awards “best practices” by outlawing illegal and unfair conduct. It puts information in the hands of temp workers so that they know which agencies are fair-dealing and takes dishonest practices out of competition.
For the Commonwealth: Providing workers with key workplace information and how to get help while providing temp agencies with clear guidelines on their responsibilities will bring temp agencies out of the shadows, reduce the number of complaints that the Attorney General’s office must address, and allow both the Attorney General’s office and DLS to focus on bad agencies. Greater temp agency compliance will also increase state revenues.
A better future
With the law going into effect on January 31, 2013, MassCOSH and our REAL (Reform Employment Agency Law) Coalition partners will work together to ensure that temporary workers and employers are well informed about the law. As a member of the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, we will collaborate with other worker centers to ensure that temp workers can defend their rights under the law. Finally, we will work with the state’s Department of Labor Standards, as they establish regulations and implement enforcement.
To get involved with this effort or learn more, contact Marcy Goldstein-Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-825-7233 x15.
Reports on the Temp Industry: