New Law AB 1897: Bill bolsters protections for temp, subcontracted workers

Last September, California’s governor signed a landmark bill into law that will hold companies liable for the safety and wage violations committed to their subcontractors and temporary workers by their labor contractors.

Following the passage of Assembly Bill 1897 (AB 1897), companies can now face fines if the subcontractors or staffing firms they hire from abuse workplace laws or underpay workers. 

Labor advocates consider the new legislation a victory.  “No longer can employers hide behind unscrupulous labor contractors,” Teamsters president Jim Hoffa said in a statement after the law was enacted.  “Workers, no matter if they are temporary or permanent, can hold companies who profit from their labor accountable for violations in the workplace.”

 The state’s Chamber of Commerce disagreed, however, calling the bill a “job killer” that will discourage economic growth, and saying it unfairly punish companies for violations or abuse of another company’s workers.

 The law likely means that client employers will start scrutinizing their labor contractors more thoroughly.  Prior to hiring from a staffing firm, companies will want to see indicators that safety training in these agencies is rigorous.  This might include requiring contractors to provide evidence that JSAs are written, reviewed with, and understood by workers for the tasks and jobs they hire for.  Additionally, these large companies will need to direct more resources toward developing more robust safety protocols and training for temporary workers.