California Temps Can Now Sue Employers for Staffing Firm Violations

California State SealCalifornia employers will now share liability with their labor contractors for complying with state labor and wage laws, including safety and workers’ compensation laws.

Governor Jerry Brown this week signed into law the hotly contested AB 1897, which extends to nearly all employers rules that previously applied to temps and contract workers in the agricultural, construction, and garment industries.

Strongly supported by organized labor, the bill was labeled a “job killer” by the California Chamber of Commerce, which sought to rally its members to have the governor veto the bill.

The bill gives temps the right to sue the company, rather than the staffing agency, for violations of California labor laws. They must first give the client employer 30 days’ notice of an alleged violation.

In addition, the law forbids employers from shifting liability, meaning the client, as well as the labor provider, could be subject to fines and penalties imposed by the state. The law also empowers state enforcement agencies to demand access to records or other information from either the staffing agency or the employer “to verify compliance with applicable state laws.”

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Discussing the bill with Staffing Industry Analysts prior to it reaching the Governor, Saba Shatara, an attorney at law firm Drinker Biddle, said, “Employers must now be especially cautious in selecting a staffing agency — and evaluate the agency before partnering with them — in order to limit their risk of retaining non-compliant contractors. When contracting with staffing agencies, employers should also specify remedies against the agency for liability created by the labor contractor’s acts.”

The law doesn’t apply to businesses employing five or fewer temps, or with fewer than 25 employees. Non-profits and labor groups are also exempt, as are a handful of other employers or contract arrangements.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


6 Comments on “California Temps Can Now Sue Employers for Staffing Firm Violations

  1. Good. Generally speaking I’m a libertarian, all else equal I’d oppose such measures. But all else isn’t equal in the labor market, and it hasn’t been for some time. If laborers want to wrestle the weapon of the state away from employers and use it against them, as opposed to being used for them which is far and away the majority of how it’s used, I’m all for it. I say let all parties enjoy. Then maybe, one day they’ll consider dealing with each other as equal human beings rather than trying to screw each other every second of the day.

  2. If this comes to fruition another knock for working in California. Temps are employees of the temp agencies and they have the same rights under these agencies not really sure why they need to sue the employer who has the relationship with the agency. This will negatively impact those employers who use agencies to augment their seasonal staffing needs. I would give a second thought to use agencies and consider other options.

    1. The history of the bill is that these are not employers who are looking for temp or seasonal people, they are employing people long term on a temp status specifically to avoid giving them comp/benefits in line with other workers at the very same company, and also to get the ability to fire them at the drop of a hat under any and all circumstances, questionable or not. Compliance with CA laws definitely seems like more of a burden than compliance with other states, but if this is truly a hit to those companies, isn’t that tacit admission that they’re not in compliance to a very large degree?

      To some degree we’re talking nit picking laws, but we’re also talking about things like pay for over time and safety issues. It sounds to me like most of the employers involved in this issue are of the type who want easily disposable automatons they can pay like crap and throw away at a moment’s notice. Should these people up their skill levels so they can command more on the market? Yes. Should employers be able to get away with dodging safety issues and flat out not paying people by blaming a ‘temp’ agency and the people who have been ‘temping’ for several years? I find that a hard one to swallow.

      1. Respectfully, I disagree. I have managed the temp vendor relationship for years and we have rules in place to protect both the company and the temp or contract person from the supposed abuse. Temps are entitled to overtime -contractors depends on the contractual relationship. As for Safety all safety rules apply to all people on site, and they are protected with workers compensation. Temp and contractors are quite aware of the short term aspects of their assignments and that they can end at anytime. Just as “at will” can end a regular employees employment relationship. This issues was resolved a long time ago under co-employment litigate and I really do not see a need for the government to pad the pockets of attorney’s, and negatively impact the contract workers, temporary agencies that this bill will do. You will be hard put to find a company that employs temps for years. As I have lived this issue on a daily basis I am confident that the majority of companies are doing the right thing and not abusing the system. As a temp if you feel that this is no longer right for you then you have options – that is the wonderful aspect of freedom of choice. I would hate to see the temporary employment industry negatively impacted by rules that which are negative to growth and the ability to conduct business.

        1. If temps are entitled to over time, why do so many companies refuse to pay it? I have had to turn down relationships with clients because they, “don’t pay overtime,” even for hourly workers, numerous times. When I was working in corporate, they weaseled people out of overtime by saying it wasn’t authorized, and never putting a mechanism in place to authorize it. As a result the customer service center, which routinely took calls which were very long and which they weren’t allowed to abandon or hand off, was full of people who would routinely work overtime, often to the tune of 50-60 hours a week, and then have their checks knocked down to 40 hours.

          You say I’d be hard put to find companies that employ ‘temps’ for years? Come to the northeast, there’s literally thousands of them, take your pick. This particular bill has as one of its case studies a salad manufacturer in CA itself that’s been engaged in this practice for some now. Maybe you see something different, I’ve seen companies trying to ‘temp’ people for years on end plenty of times. Also, perpetual internships are quite popular these days. I recall one company with ‘intern’ that had been ‘interning’ for an average of 3 years or so.

          As I stated, all else equal I would oppose this bill. All else is not equal in the labor market. Freedom of choice does not exist, the market we work in has been managed to the point of a stranglehold, and these low level workers often do not have the opportunities they would have in a truly free market. So, so long as employers benefit from the downward pressure on wages by managing out competition and denying the labor pool more choice, I will happily cheer every time low wage workers give them a taste of their own medicine by trying to use the government to screw them back. They’re hurting themselves in the process, no doubt, but so are employers when they lobby for special favors, and they get far more favors than labor, so I’m not shedding a tear for them. If each party bashing each other into insolvency is the only way to get them to potentially try a free market, and dealing with each other as equals, I’m all for it.

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