Unionization and Workers’ Rights in 2024

As has already been discussed in this blog, 2023 saw a record-breaking amount of union activity across the United States.  Strikes by large, high-profile unions representing the United Auto Workers, UPS workers, the teamsters, and writers and actors as well as smaller, lower-profile unions all resulted in gains for workers.

One would think that these wins would translate into an increase in the percentage of unionized workers in the United States, but studies are not yet showing that increase.  In fact, overall union membership dropped in 2023 from 10.1% to 10%.  See https://www.jacksonlewis.com/insights/top-five-labor-law-developments-january-2024. 

Experts suggest a large influx of workers into the economy increased the overall worker population and diluted any specific increases in a unionized workforce.  To the extent there are gains in union membership, these gains are more likely to be in workers of color under the age of 45.

It may be that the impact of 2023 union successes hasn’t revealed itself yet.  Further, there were several rulings by the National Labor Relations Board in 2023 that should create a more favorable environment for union organizing and recruitment.  The impact of these rulings may start to be felt this coming year.

Overall, employers should anticipate continued strong union activity across the country and pay attention to their workforce.  Now may be a good time to consult with legal counsel about how employers can legally respond to unionization efforts should they arise.

The rights of temporary workers in New Jersey also took center stage in 2023 with the passage of the New Jersey Temporary Worker Bill of Rights.  In 2024, New Jersey temporary help service firms await greater clarity from the State on the implementation of the new law.

Temporary help service firms and their clients should monitor the development of regulations issued by the State that will interpret and clarify provisions of the law.  They should also watch for updates on the remaining provisions of the law that have not yet gone into effect, particularly provisions regarding temporary help service firm registration.

Stay tuned.     

Business Opportunity with Return and Earn

In September of 2021, the Murphy Administration instituted a program called Return and Earn.  The Return and Earn program incentivizes New Jersey employers to hire and train dislocated workers with identifiable skills gaps.  This past spring, presumably due to low employer engagement with the program, the Murphy Administration broadened the population of employers eligible to participate in the program and increased the available incentives. 

Here is how the program works.  Under new, broader eligibility requirements, private and not-for-profit employers with up to 500 full-time employees can participate in the program.  The New Jersey Department of Labor works with interested employers to identify appropriate, eligible job candidates.  Employers provide substantive training either at their worksite, or virtually, resulting in skill badges or industry-recognized credentials for the participating employees.

Candidates for employment must be New Jersey residents working a minimum of 32 hours per week, considered full-time, and the position offered must pay at least $16 per hour.  Seasonal, temporary, part-time, commission-based or 1099 positions are ineligible.

In exchange for employers hiring candidates within the program, the State reimburses employers 50 percent of the wages paid for regular hours worked for the first six months of the training period, capped at a maximum of $20,000 in wages per employee.  The program also caps the aggregate amount of wage reimbursement for a participating employer at $200,000 across all employees.  These caps were increased this past spring from the original limits which were $10,000 for each employee and $40,000 in the aggregate per employer.

The Return and Earn program also provides prospective job candidates a $500 incentive to reenter the workforce and participate in the initiative.

For more information about this program and how to participate visit: https://www.nj.gov/labor/lwdhome/press/2023/20230331_updatedreturnandearn.shtml.

New Jersey’s New Temporary Workers Law Now In Effect

On August 5, 2023, the majority of the provisions of New Jersey’s “Temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights” took effect.  Under the new legislation, both temporary help service firms and their clients have additional mandatory notification, reporting and other requirements.  This article summarizes some of the changes effective as of August 5.

At the onset it is important to note that the Temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights applies only to certain categories of employees identified in the law as employees in “designated classification placements”.  The law defines “designated classification placements” as work performed in a list of occupational categories established by the Bureau of Labor Statistics including, but not limited to, protective service workers, food preparation and serving related occupations, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, personal care and service occupations, construction laborers.

Temporary laborers in these “designated classification placements” are the employees protected by the law.  The requirements under the law apply to temporary help service firms and third party clients with temporary laborers in the “designated classification placements”. 

Temporary help service firms must now provide temporary laborers notices with information about their work assignment at the time they are dispatched to their worksites.  Additional notices must be provided when any information contained in the notices changes.  Temporary help service firms must also provide 48 hours notice, where possible, when work assignments change.

Temporary help service firms must now provide detailed and itemized statements with paystubs.  These statements, either separate or contained within the paystub, must include the hours worked, the rate of pay, and any deductions.

Temporary help service firms must also follow new recordkeeping requirements.

As of August 5, 2023, temporary help service firms may no longer charge their employees for transportation to and from worksites.  This prohibition extends to third party providers referred by the temporary help service firms and third party clients as well.

Clients of temporary help service firms must also comply with new mandatory requirements under the law.  Among other things, third party clients must provide weekly reports to the temporary help service firms with information about temporary employee wages and hours.  Third party clients must also provide notices to temporary employees on single day assignments.

There remains one section of the law that has not yet taken effect.  This section relates to temporary help service firm registrations with the State.  We await further information about this section from the State of New Jersey.

In the meantime, temporary help service firms and their clients are encouraged to research the law and its accompanying regulations and review them with their legal teams to ensure compliance.  The law contains significant penalties for violations of its different sections.  

For further information, please visit https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/myworkrights/temporaryworkers.shtml.

Deadline for NJ Temporary Help Legislation Approaches

Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed legislation reforming the temporary help service firm industry in the State of New Jersey on February 6, 2023.  According to the language of the legislation, two of its sections take effect after 90 days.  As that 90 day deadline approaches on May 6, 2023, temporary help service firms in New Jersey and their clients should be taking steps to comply.

The first section coming into effect requires the distribution of statements to temporary laborers when they are dispatched to assigned worksites.  The State of New Jersey recently provided a template statement for firms to use.  The statement must contain a variety of information including the name of the employee, contact information for the temporary help service firm, the firm’s worker’s compensation carrier, as well as the third party client.  The statement also must include details about the placement itself such as the nature of the work to be performed, the wages, and employment terms related to transportation, meals and equipment.  Finally, the statement must information about the length of the assignment and work schedule, if known.

Firms must provide these statements to newly hired and assigned employees, as well as existing employees when their employment terms change.

It is important to note that this section does not apply to all temporary laborers, but instead, to  employees working in several designated occupational categories including but not limited to: food preparation; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; personal care and service occupations; construction laborers; installation, maintenance and repair occupations; production occupations; and transportation and material moving occupations.

In addition to the above notification requirement, temporary help service firms must not assign their workers where a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute exists without informing the workers in writing of the labor dispute at the time of dispatch.

Further, temporary help service firms must, through its own employees or a vendor, provide personnel who can effectively communicate information to all qualifying employees in Spanish “or any other language that is generally understood in the locale of the temporary help service firm.”

Violations of this section are subject to a civil penalty of at least $500 but no more than $1,000 per violation.

The second section coming into effect prohibits temporary help service firms from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under this law.

Many other provisions of this law are scheduled to take effect in another ninety days.