In a move sure to please many worker advocates, Governor Brown has signed AB 1897 (Hernandez).
This bill provides that many employers who hire labor contractors will be liable for the sins of those labor contractors where there are wage claims or failure to secure valid workers’ comp coverage.
Specifically, the bill provides that
Business interests had lined up in opposition to AB 1897, while labor interests and employee advocates pushed the bill.
Subcontracted employment has been increasing. As a result, many workers have found it difficult to identify the applicable workers’ comp coverage or to pursue wage and hour claims .
The rationale for AB 1897 is stated in the Assembly floor analysis as follows:
“The sponsors argue that the reliance on labor contractors undermines the enforcement of labor laws and erodes working conditions in key industries. Current law is simply insufficient to protect workers’ rights in the shadows of the subcontracted economy. Under existing law, a company can only be held responsible if a worker can prove joint employer status. This process is costly, slow, and difficult to navigate for most workers. It requires litigation, rather than providing a simple and straightforward rule. It is also easily manipulated by companies that have the labor contractor provide supervision on site to shield them from liability.
The sponsors argue that this bill offers a far better approach. It holds companies accountable for serious violations of workers’ rights committed by their own labor suppliers to workers on their premises. This simple rule will incentivize the use of responsible contractors, rather than a race to the bottom. It will protect vulnerable temporary workers, as well as businesses that follow the law and don’t profit from cheating workers. It offers workers a clear path to accountability for workplace violations and it offers employers a clear path to compliance. ”
Exempted from the bill are:
1. Businesses with a workforce of less than 25 workers
2. Businesses with five or fewer workers supplied by a labor contractor or labor contractors to the client employer at any given time.
3. The state and cities, counties & political subdivisions
4. Motion picture patrol companies, certain motor carriers, and certain cable TV operations
5. Certain non-profits and bona fide labor organizations and apprenticeship programs
6. Services provided to home-based businesses
Additionally, the bill provides that