Illinois strengthens protections for temporary and freelance workers

Illinois Correspondent

THE TEMP WORKER SAFETY AND FAIRNESS ACT requires that temporary workers in the same job for more than 90 days must be paid the same as a full-time employee, in an attempt to curb “perma-temping” where businesses hire temp workers to avoid the costs of full-time employees. – Illinois AFL-CIO photo

Two new Illinois laws will strengthen protections for temporary and freelance workers, while also making it harder for employers to use temporary workers to break strikes.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed both bills into law on Aug. 4.

The Temp Worker Safety and Fairness Act requires, among other things, that temporary workers in the same job for more than 90 days must be paid the same as a full-time employee, in an attempt to curb “perma-temping” where businesses hire temp workers to avoid the costs of full-time employees.

The law also allows workers’ centers or unions to sue on behalf of temp workers over violations of the law. In the past, only the Illinois Department of Labor could file such suits.

The amendments also make it harder for temps to be used as strikebreakers and requires staffing agencies to abide by stronger safety protections, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Center Square reports that hundreds of thousands of workers will get as much as $4 more per hour when the law takes effect.

Temp workers in transportation or production jobs make about 72-80 percent of the salaries of direct-hire workers, according to the University of Illinois School of Public Health.

The new law requires that all temp workers have the right to refuse a strikebreaking assignment without retaliation, though they may continue the employment of a temporary worker throughout a strike, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Temp agencies also must take a more active role in worker safety and remove workers from placements subject to hazards that the employer has failed to correct.

“The wins in New Jersey and Illinois provide models for regulating the temporary staffing agency industry and addressing the exploitative ‘permatemping’ that has locked workers into lower wages and poor working conditions. We, at Temp Worker Justice, believe that the political environment is ripe to pass laws like this around the country,” said Roberto Clack, executive director of Temp Worker Justice. “Workers are mobilizing to demand baseline protections and a path to direct-hire employment, which we know increases wages and labor standards.”

Employers can pay the hourly cash equivalent of the actual cost of benefits as opposed to providing benefits, and the employer must provide a temp worker with job duties, pay and benefits for direct-hire employees once they have been there for 90 days.

Pritzker also signed the Freelance Worker Protection Act, which aims to protect freelance workers from intimidation and discrimination from hiring parties, requires timely compensation and requires a written contract for freelancers. Freelancers are defined as independent contractors providing products or services in excess of $500 over 120 days, but excludes construction workers and contractors, and they must be paid within 30 days of completion.

According to advocates, 74 percent of freelancers reported experiencing late or non-payment, and lose nearly $6,000 a year to wage theft. Republican legislators argued that the law would cause employers to stop using freelancers, but the National Writers Union called on the governor to sign it.

“Freelancers make up more than a third of the workforce in the United States,” said Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union. While Illinois is the first state to pass such laws, a “Freelance isn’t free” ordinance was passed in New York City, Seattle and Minneapolis, and similar efforts have been recently approved in Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio. State proposals are also pending in California, New Jersey, Kansas and Missouri, according to the Freelancers Union.


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