Earlier this week, New Jersey state senators tabled the vote on Bill S511, landmark legislation dubbed the NJ temporary worker “Bill of Rights.” Governor Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed the proposed legislation last month, and advocates expected the bill to pass following the state Assembly’s approval of Gov. Murphy’s revisions. But ultimately, state senators pulled the bill due to insufficient support to pass the revised version, leaving employers with the current state of flexibility to work with temporary agencies to fill gaps in their workforce.
This surprising turn of events has caused advocates of the legislation significant concern. Labor activists had lauded the proposed legislation as a solution to what they perceive as discriminatory practices impacting temporary workers, and to promote pay equity in the workplace. Employer and temporary agency representatives criticized the bill and argued it would create an administrative nightmare and an undue burden on businesses by requiring that temporary employees receive the same compensation and benefits as other employees, including benefits such as health, disability and life insurance coverage, and 401(k) matches.
Other bill provisions included a bar to certain fees charged to temporary workers, and wage floor protections. A practical application of these restrictions would eliminate transportation fees charged by temporary agencies, and require employers to guarantee temporary workers at least minimum wage after any permissible fee deductions – i.e., meals and equipment – by temporary agencies. Bill S511 would also allow temporary workers to sue both the temporary agency and its employer client for violations of the statute, including new anti-retaliation rights, which could protect workers who speak out regarding underpayment or mistreatment. Staffing industry spokespersons warned that the legislation could drive staffing agencies out of business in NJ and create a shortage of temporary workers.
While state senators have tabled the bill for now, Senate President Nicholas Scutari told reporters he believes the bill will come back. The Senate will hold its next voting session on November 21, 2022. Because there is no deadline to concur with Gov. Murphy’s conditional veto, employers and temporary agencies should pay close attention to any action on Bill S511 and prepare to adhere to the bill’s provisions should it be signed into law. Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment Group regularly advises clients on working and having legally compliant contracts with staffing agencies and on employing temporary workers in NJ and other states.