New Jersey Has One of the Largest Concentrations of Temp Workers in America
Legislation Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver sponsored to protect temporary workers from civil rights abuses and violations of labor laws was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.
New Jersey has one of the largest concentrations of the nearly 3 million temporary workers in the nation, according to federal statistics. Temp workers in New Jersey warehouses and factories typically earn between the state’s minimum wage of $8.38 and $12 an hour and have no guarantee of work every day. They are sometimes not paid at all, however, and racial and sexual discrimination, unsafe working conditions and exploitation of undocumented immigrants are common, according to workers and activists.
“Many of the job seekers looking for work at temp agencies go there because they are desperate for a chance to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. It is utterly despicable that certain employers prey on that vulnerability and abuse men and women who work hard to make ends meet,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “New Jersey’s temp industry is rife with gender discrimination, workplace hazards and overall disregard for the safety and well-being of workers – some of whom, although they are ‘temporary’ employees, endure these conditions for years. This simply cannot be tolerated.”
Because New Jersey law regards “temporary help service firms” – agencies that employ individuals directly or indirectly to assist the firm’s customers – as separate from “employment agencies” – which connect job seekers to employment opportunities – temp agencies are left largely unregulated and thus operate with little government oversight.
The bill (A-4315), drafted in response to a recent series of investigative articles on abuses within the temp industry, would regulate “temp agencies” as employment agencies and protect the civil rights of job seekers who use such agencies to find work. This change would extend to temp agencies the regulations and bonding requirements that currently apply to employment agencies.
As such, the legislation would make it illegal for a temp agency to refuse to refer a job seeker for employment or to discriminate against a job seeker in compensation because of his or her race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, liability for service in the military, or because of the refusal to submit to a genetic test or make available the results of a genetic test to an employer.
The measure also would require agencies to post in a prominent location an abstract of employment agency law and a notice informing job seekers of their civil rights protections as well as contact information for the reporting of violations.
“All people in New Jersey’s workforce deserve to work in safe environments under the legal protections to which they are entitled,” said Oliver. “Employers who abuse their workers in any way – regardless of whether those workers are temporary or permanent and regardless of their immigration status – must face consequences.”
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Labor Committee.