Employees in New Jersey have the right to file for workers’ compensation if they’re injured on the job. Temporary and contract workers, however, often cannot access workers’ compensation benefits if they’re injured working alongside an employee in the same conditions.
Workers’ compensation benefits are just one of the rights that a New Jersey bill seeks to protect for temporary and contract workers. Bills that address temp and contract worker rights, however, have had trouble getting traction in New Jersey and other state legislatures.
New Jersey’s Attempts to Protect Temp and Contract Workers
The bill, A1474, would require employers to pay temp workers the same average pay as regular employees doing the same work. The bill would also require employers to pay these workers an equivalent amount in cash for the healthcare or other benefits that the workers would have received if they were employed in the same role. The bill would also allow contract workers to sue their staffing agencies for violations of various rights.
New Jersey’s legislature passed a similar bill in September 2022, but the bill was struck down by a veto from Governor Phil Murphy, who said he’d sign a revised version that met certain conditions.
Since then, the state Assembly has passed a revised bill. The Senate, however, postponed a vote twice because the bill would not pass.
Workers’ Compensation and Other Benefits for New Jersey Employees
Temporary and contract workers often do identical work as employees in New Jersey businesses. During a seasonal rush, for instance, employees and temporary workers may work side by side to fill orders, manufacture goods, or tackle other tasks.
These workers work in identical conditions, with similar safety concerns and risks of injury. Yet if an employee is injured, that person may file for workers’ compensation benefits. If a temporary worker is injured, that worker cannot.
Workers’ compensation protects employees who are injured while doing their work or who suffer an occupational illness related to their job. Workers’ compensation includes payment of medical bills related to the injury, various types of disability benefits for employees who need time off work to recover, and even death benefits if a workplace injury claims an employee’s life.
An injured contract or temporary worker also needs help paying medical bills, making ends meet if they become disabled, or supporting their family if a workplace injury proves fatal. A lack of “employee” status can prevent these workers from accessing benefits.
As the employee of record, a staffing firm must carry workers’ compensation insurance for the temp or contract workers it places. Some staffing firms don’t provide this insurance, and others don’t have adequate coverage for the injuries their temp or contract workers experience.
Temp and contract-based workers may be able to seek compensation from the direct employer if their staffing agency’s workers’ compensation insurance is non-existent, their claim is denied, or the workers’ compensation coverage isn’t enough to address their needs. The worker may also have a claim against a third party if someone else’s negligence caused the injuries.
In some cases, a third party causes on-the-job injuries. If you’re working as a delivery driver, for instance, you may be injured by another negligent driver on the road. Identifying this driver and seeking compensation from them can be challenging. If you’re injured by a hidden defect in a tool at work, you might have a claim against the toolmaker一but again, filing this lawsuit takes time and can be difficult.
Injured workers often don’t have the time or resources to devote to their legal claims, especially if they work on a temporary or contract basis. They need time to heal from injuries and to assess their ability to return to work.
Currently, few laws protect the rights of temporary or contract workers – even when they do identical work in identical conditions as employees. Bills like New Jersey’s seek to improve conditions and protections for these workers.
Where to Turn for Help
Workers’ compensation claims can be complex. For temporary and contract workers, these claims can get complicated to navigate; especially if you have no prior experience with the legal system. Speaking to an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer may help.