October 20, 2014
On Sept. 28, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will hold employers liable for certain California Labor Code violations committed by their labor contractors, regardless of the employer’s control over or direct participation in such violations.
New Shared Liability Standard
Effective Jan. 1, 2015, under Labor Code § 2810.3 (Section 2810.3), each affected California employer will:
The stated basis for the law is to prohibit employers from shifting to their labor contractors legal duties or liabilities under workplace safety provisions with respect to assigned workers provided by the contractor.
Departure From Joint-Employer Liability Rule
The new law is a significant departure from California’s common law joint-employer theory of liability. Under that approach, an employer could be liable for claims for unpaid wages of contracted workers only if a worker established that an actual employment relationship existed both with the labor contractor that employed the temp worker and with the company to which the worker was assigned to perform contracted services. This typically was accomplished through, among other things, a showing that the company to which the worker was assigned exercised significant, direct control over the worker’s hours, wages or working conditions.
While the new law purports to nullify any attempt to waive the provisions of the statute, it does provide that employers and labor contractors may still contract for any “otherwise lawful remedies” against each other for their acts.
Although the use of temp workers and other contracted labor can be appealing to many businesses, employers in California should be wary of the state-specific consequences and potential liability associated with such practices. For questions regarding this new law or assistance in reviewing the use or potential use of contracted labor in California or elsewhere, please reach out to your McGuireWoods contact, the authors or any other members of the McGuireWoods labor and employment group.