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Temporary workers face doubt in workers' compensation coverage

With today’s unemployment numbers, many workers are turning to temporary agencies for income until they can find a permanent job.  While those jobs can provide income that can be a lifesaver for keeping up with everyday expenses, they also come with challenges and risks that regular employees do not face. Insufficient or non-existent workers’ compensation coverage is one of those risks.

Temp workers tend to fall into a no-man’s land of responsibility between the temp agency that placed them and the business where they work.  Typically, temp workers are employees of the temp agency but they are working on the premises or with the property of the business. So when an on-the-job injury occurs, who is responsible?

In addition to the question of responsibility, a study of workers’ compensation claims showed that temporary workers are more likely to suffer workplace injuries than permanent employees are. The study also shows that this significantly higher risk involves more severe injuries including amputations. Evidence at a hearing from workers showed that they are often put in unsafe conditions on the job but they don’t complain because they are afraid that they will lose the temporary position.

Illinois currently requires temp agencies to register with the state, but even that doesn’t address many of the problems.  The law is certainly a step in the right direction to protect temp workers, but other states are going so far as to introduce laws to require temp agencies to inform their workers of the name of the agency’s workers’ compensation carrier when they send them on a job.  One state even has a bill on the table that would require the company that contracts with the temp agency to be held liable if the agency fails to provide workers with adequate workers’ compensation protection.

Whatever the status of the law in Illinois or any other state, a temporary worker who has been in a workplace accident while on an assignment from the temp agency should consult an attorney in order to determine whether they qualify for financial compensation or not.

Source: ProPublica, "Exploited temp workers may finally get some relief," Michael Grabell, April 6, 2014

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