Wagner & Eustace Bill to Protect Taxpayers from Companies that Relocate Call Center Services Overseas Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – An Assembly committee on Monday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly members Connie Wagner and Timothy Eustace (both D-Bergen) that would require employer notification when relocating call center services to a foreign country, and would prevent employers who move these type of operations from benefitting from financial resources from the state.

“Jobs are being lost and customer service jeopardized as companies move their call centers overseas. Companies have a right to invest elsewhere if it benefits their bottom line, but they should not be able to benefit from financial resources from the state when they do,” said Wagner. “That help should be limited to those who contribute to our economy. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

“This bill is intended to protect New Jersey jobs and ensure New Jersey taxpayers aren’t providing their hard-earned tax dollars in the form of grants, incentives, or loan guarantees to companies that are taking money out of our state economy, not to mention compromising customer service for our residents, by sending their call center jobs overseas,” said Eustace.

The bill (A-2651) would require any employer that relocates a call center (or transfers one or more facilities or operating units comprising at least 30 percent of a call center’s total operating volume of telephone calls or emails or other electronic communications when measured against the previous 12 month average volume of those operations) from the state to one or more foreign countries to notify the commissioner of labor and workforce development at least 120 days prior to the relocation or transfer of operations.

Under the bill, any employer in violation of the notification requirement would be subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each day the notification is not made.

For the purposes of the bill, “call center’ is defined as a facility or other operation whereby workers receive incoming telephone calls, emails, or other electronic communication for the purpose of providing customer assistance or other service. The bill defines “employer” as any business entity that employs 50 or more full-time workers or 50 or more workers that in the aggregate work at least 1,500 hours per week, excluding overtime hours, for the purpose of staffing a call center.

The bill would require the commissioner to compile and maintain a list of all employers that provide the notification required by the bill. The list will be updated on a monthly basis and an employer will remain on the list for a period not to exceed three years after each instance of the required notification. The bill also requires that the commissioner make the list of employers available to the public and prominently display a link to the list on the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website.

The bill would also provide that an employer that is added to the list compiled and maintained by the commissioner would be ineligible to receive any direct or indirect State grant, guaranteed loan, tax benefit, and any other financial support for the three years following the date upon which the employer is added to the list. Any employer added to this list would also be required to remit to the commissioner the unamortized value of any direct or indirect state grant, guaranteed loan, tax benefit, and any other financial support provided to the employer by the state.

The commissioner, in consultation with the appropriate governmental entity providing any direct or indirect state grant, guaranteed loan, tax benefit, or any other financial support to an employer, would be able to waive the remittance requirement if it is demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the commissioner, that the requirement would result in a substantial loss of jobs in this state or harm the environment.

Lastly, the bill would provide that a state department or agency, in making or awarding a contract for call center services, will grant a preference for such contract to qualified businesses located in the state and employing residents of the state, up to the limits set forth under rules and regulations promulgated by the commissioner.

The bill was released by the Assembly Labor Committee.