Governor Murphy signs temporary worker protections into law

Law includes wage guarantees, reporting standards, other safeguards

By: - February 6, 2023 12:21 pm

New safeguards for temp workers include wage protections, scheduling requirements, and a ban on transportation fees. (Hal Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill Monday enacting new protections for temporary workers, capping a saga touched by resistance among some Senate Democrats that repeatedly delayed the bill’s passage.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union) and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Middlesex), requires temporary staffing firms that fought the legislation to provide workers with schedules, descriptions of the work they are to perform, and information about worker’s compensation insurance.

“When workers are not treated justly in the workplace, it’s the role of government to fix it, and today, Phil Murphy fixed it,” Cryan said in a statement.

It also sets minimum safety requirements for transportation services obtained by staffing firms and bars them from requiring workers to pay for transportation to work sites.

The bill was spurred in part by the fatal crash of a van transporting temporary workers that killed four and injured eight others on the Palisades Interstate Parkway in September.

It mandates temporary staffing firms to register with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, bars employers from working with unregistered firms, and sets new wage protections that stipulate temporary workers must make at least minimum wage after food and equipment expenses. Pay must also reflect wages paid to permanent employees performing similar work.

Staffing agencies that violate the bill’s provisions, including by preventing a temporary worker from taking a permanent position with a business they were placed in, face fines and the prospect of civil litigation.

“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter where temp workers will have the respect, dignity and safety they deserve,” Janeth Caicedo with immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New Jersey said in a statement.

Delayed but not defeated

The effort to enact new protections for New Jersey’s temporary laborers was delayed for months following Murphy’s conditional veto of the bill in September.

With a handful of Democrats and every Republican in the chamber opposed to the bill or conflicted out of a vote, the majority was forced to cancel three votes on the bill during sessions over the past four months.

Three Democrats, Sens. Fred Madden (D-Gloucester), Jim Beach (D-Camden), and Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), did not vote in favor of the legislation. A fourth Democrat, Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson), was believed to support the bill but has been kept off the Senate floor by health issues.

Though members in the majority struggled to whip support for the measure among the minority caucus in earlier votes, Sen. Vince Polistina (R-Atlantic), a moderate who has shown a willingness to support parts of Murphy’s agenda, broke with his party to support the bill last week.

The repeated delays did little to deter the bill’s supporters. Advocates from Make the Road New Jersey and other groups staged repeated demonstrations urging the bill’s passage.

“This bill didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened because a whole lot of people saw the wrong and wanted the right. I really want to thank them,” Cryan said.

The governor’s September rewrite of the bill added 90 days for the bill’s provisions to go into effect and $1 million to aid the Department of Labor’s enforcement of the new provisions.

It also injected some new protections, like a requirement that workers be paid bi-weekly, and made a series of technical changes.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.