During economic downturns, temporary workers in the Commonwealth rely on staffing and employment agencies to place them in wage earning positions. However, workers who rely on such agencies have been subject to wage theft and even hazardous conditions in the past. To prevent this from occurring, Massachusetts enacted a statute that went into effect in January. This law greatly increases the duties of staffing agencies and provides minimum protections for temporary workers.
The law was created due to criticisms of staffing agencies that were providing little information about job placements to workers. The law applies to all workers placed in laboring, construction, and manufacturing positions. Those temporary workers placed in office settings are exempt from the law.
The new statute, codified at M.G.L. c.149 § 159C, mandates that staffing agencies provide each employee with the following information:
- The name, address, and phone number of the staffing agency, its workers compensation carrier, and the worksite employer
- A description of the position as well as requirement for the job (i.e special clothing, equipment, licenses,) as well as the costs of those requirements
- Designated payday, start time, end time
- Further, staffing agencies will be prohibited from charging workers for:
- Registering with the agency
- The cost of criminal background checks required by the company to which they are assigned, or
- Any other goods or services that cause their pay to fall below the minimum wage.
Failure of staffing agencies to abide by the new law may result in harsh civil fines of up to $25,000 and even criminal sanctions, so agencies should take proactive steps to ensure compliance with the new law:
- Budget appropriately for the administrative paper work that will be necessary for compliance.
- Be on the look-out for Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards that will further interpret the statute.
- Contact employment counsel with any questions and/or concerns