Temp Worker Bill Passes MA Legislature

Legislature Passes Temporary Worker's Right to Know Act — advocates celebrate new protections for temp workers

July 31, 2012 BOSTON — Today the Massachusetts legislature passed a landmark bill that would prevent unethical temporary employment agencies from exploiting temporary workers and undermining law-abiding businesses. The Temporary Worker's Right to Know Act, sponsored by state Representative Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester), requires temp agencies to provide written notice of key details of job assignments, disclosure to workers of how to reach the Department of Labor Standards, and the name of the workers' compensation provider, among other protections. The bill will now go to Governor Deval Patrick, whose administration had testified in favor of the bill.

"After more than a year of meetings with a diverse coalition of stakeholders, we have a comprehensive piece of legislation that strengthens a temporary workers right to critical information about their employment, while also minimizing the burden on employers," Rep.Forry said.

Bill supporters report that many temp workers are currently assigned some of the most undesirable, dangerous jobs. Yet many are provided with little to no information about their employment– not even so much as the name of their employer and workers' compensation provider, nor the amount of their wages.

"I worked ten hours per day peeling fruit," said Juan Calderas, a temporary worker and member of the MassCOSH Worker Center . "I was carrying a large bucket of fruit and fell. I broke two discs in my back. When the employer refused to pay my doctor's bills, that's when I learned that I wasn't working for the company at all, but instead for a temporary agency."

"The fact that a worker in the state of Massachusetts can put in a day's work and never see a dime because they don't know the name of their employer is embarrassing," said Tim Sullivan of the Mass AFL-CIO. "Perhaps more embarrassing is the fact that this form of wage-theft can be prevented by providing workers with a simple piece of paper that includes some basic information about their job, yet our laws do not require temp agencies to provide one."

Bill supporters see the passage of today's Right to Know Act as a major step in stopping such widespread abuse.

"We had so many frustrated and upset workers coming to us for help with unpaid wages, injuries, illegal fees," said Mirna Montano, MassCOSH Worker Center organizer. "With bad employers knowing that they could get away with leaving workers in the dark, it made achieving justice for these individuals very hard. The Temporary Worker's Right to Know Act is going to really help us help workers."

"The passage of this bill is particularly important for immigrant workers, who are easily targeted and exploited" said Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "We are thrilled that the legislature recognized that there was a need for serious reform of temp agency laws, and that immigrant workers from across the state will be protected from abuse."