Thursday, August 2, 2012

Can More Paper Protect MA Temp Workers?

A while back I posited that most workers probably don't know what workers' compensation was, or cared, until they have an injury at work or unless they know someone who is "on comp".

Massachusetts is going to try to keep workers for temporary staffing firms informed about who the coverage provider with House Bill 4304, sponsored by Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, D-Dorchester, called the "Temporary Worker Right to Know Act."

Proponents say the bill will help ensure that the more than 40,000 day laborers in Massachusetts are protected from injuries.

HB 4304 also requires temporary staffing firms to tell workers what safety equipment and training are required for the job.

The Workplace Safety Task Force of the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) has been pushing for passage of versions of HB 4304 for the past two years.

They argue that day laborers – primarily in the construction industry – are working without protection and often without knowing the identities of staffing company clients.

The bill exempts professional workers, secretaries and administrative assistants.

The bill requires staffing companies to provide a written job order that includes:
  • The name, address and telephone number of the staffing agency, its workers' compensation carrier, the employer at the worksite and contact information for the state Department of Labor Standards.
  • The type of job and any requirements for training, equipment or licenses.
  • The designated pay day, hourly rate and anticipated start and end times for the job.
  • Any meals or transportation provided by the staffing company or the worksite employer and associated fees charged workers.
  • A multilingual notice that the job order contains important information and should be translated.
  • The bill also prohibits staffing companies from charging workers for registering with the state or for procuring the job.
The opposition to HB 4304, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Massachusetts Staffing Association argue that the law may be unenforceable and will bury legitimate staffing companies in paperwork. They also argue that the bill would drive unscrupulous staffing companies underground.

"There's definitely a day laborer issue. These are the folks who are picked up for some job at 6 a.m. and don't know where they are going. They get hurt on the job and find out there's no workers' compensation," Bill Vernon, Massachusetts director of NFIB, said. "But what (lawmakers) have done is sucked in legitimate companies, and the bill may create a real problem with compliance."

I tend to agree with NFIB. I'm not sure employees really care about workers' compensation, safety or training. They might care about safety if the engage in an activity that they believe might not be safe, but most of the time those workers are too worried about getting paid and putting food on the table than whether a particular job is safe.

Likewise whether training is required, equipment, licenses - not particularly important when each and every hour worked means another step away from poverty.

I hope that the Massachusetts law accomplishes its intended purpose - to help protect the state's temporary workers from injury and ensure access to care and benefits if the unfortunate happens.

I'm just not convinced that another couple of required pieces of paper are going to make a difference.

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