Since the start of the recession in 2008, companies have been increasingly relying on the services of temporary employees, often in warehouses, factories and construction sites.Nearly 3 million workers are employed by temp agencies, which are placing these workers in positions that put them at greater risk of an on-the-job injury, as compared to permanent employees.
A recent investigation by news journalism non-profit ProPublica found that temps were about 50 percent more likely than non-temps to be hurt on the job in Florida and California. In Minnesota, they were 72 percent more likely to be injured, 66 percent more likely in Oregon and 36 percent more likely in Massachusetts.
These cases present special challenges for workers’ compensation lawyers in Georgia because temporary workers are, for the most part, considered independent contractors. As such, they are not covered under the state’s workers’ compensation laws.
That is part of why the trend toward hiring temps has grown exponentially in the last several years. Employers are doing everything they can to cut costs, and with a temporary worker, they can reduce costs for everything from health benefits to overtime. Workers’ compensation is another cost they are trying to avoid paying.
However, as we recently reported in our Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, just because a company says you are an independent contractor doesn’t necessarily mean that is the case. It is possible in some instances to argue that a worker was an employee, as opposed to a contractor, based one the conditions of the work and the relationship between the company and the individual.
This is a critical distinction for those who are increasingly taking on temporary work. ProPublica in its investigation reviewed dozens of investigations led by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as directly interviewed hundreds of temporary workers.
Alternatively, workers’ compensation benefits can be sought from the temp agency that does directly employ the worker.
A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that workers’ compensation claims by temporary workers in the construction and manufacturing industries in Washington state were twice as high as the number filed by regular workers doing the same kind of jobs.
But both firms are likely to fight back hard on the issue because so many of the injuries sustained by temporary workers are severe.
For example, in Florida, investigators learned that temps were at double the risk for crushing injuries, punctures, fractures, lacerations and dislocations. They were at triple the risk for amputation. In California, they were twice as likely to suffer heat exhaustion. In Minnesota, they were at triple the risk of being hurt by exposure to chemicals.
One of the greatest problems identified by the researchers was a lack of worker training. In fact, OSHA leaders have begun to speak out on the number of temp injuries and fatalities to be suffered by temporary workers on their very first day on the job.
While ProPublica reporters weren’t able to access national data on workers’ compensation claims by temporary workers (each state tabulates them differently), what they did conclude was that even the information they had was likely to be a low-ball estimate. That’s because often, temporary workers fear reporting injuries, as they are hoping to avoid blacklisting by the temp agency.
But failing to report such injuries and seek prompt treatment can result in those conditions being compounded, and perhaps ultimately diminishing one’s ability to work anyway.
Temporary workers do have options when it comes to workers’ compensation. Call us to find out more about which options are available to you.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job in Atlanta, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., to speak with an experienced attorney. For a free consultation call 1-404-920-4708 today.