Recently, Time Magazine together with ProPublica exposed the reality of the rapidly growing number of Temporary Workers here in the United States; according to their research, our nation has more temps working on the job than ever before in U.S. History (2,700,000 people per the U.S. Department of Labor).
Here’s the big question: what about when a temporary worker (”temp”) gets hurt while working on the job?
After all, temp agencies place workers in all sorts of jobs – from construction work to office work to laboring in mills or as longshoremen. Of course, all these employers in all these industries like the idea of hiring a temp: they don’t have to pay as much for them in the way of unemployment taxes, employee insurance, etc.
In fact, there are now areas of the country that are nicknamed “temp towns” because so many of the community’s workers are temps, not full-time, permanent employees on the company roster. One of those “temp towns” is located in Kemp County, Indiana; another is in Chicago, Illinois.
Every state in the country has Workers’ Compensation laws on the books, to protect workers injured on the job. These are accident insurance plans overseen by the state government that requires employers to buy workers’ compensation coverage for their employees which will then cover worker injuries on the job by paying claims for medical expenses, lost wages, etc. Many, like Indiana’s Worker’s Compensation Program, also provide wrongful death benefits to loved ones should a worker die from their on the job work injuries.
Indiana Workers’ Compensation provides compensation for workers who cannot go back to work for 7 days after they have been hurt, sending weekly benefit payments to the injured worker 15 days after the accident. The statute provides that the worker who is totally disabled (temporarily) will get 2/3 of his or her average weekly wage up to $600/week for accidents that happen after July 2006.
Workers’ compensation benefits may not apply to temp workers, however. Companies that host the temp worker at an unsafe site, and through their negligence cause the harm to the temp worker, may be able to point to the temp agency and claim it is their responsibility to provide for the worker since the worker was a “temp” on the agency’s rolls.
Temp Workers Hurt on the Job – Who Pays For Their Injuries?
In Indiana, a temp worker may be hurt because of negligence on the part of the company where he is working on the job, but the company may point to the temporary agency that sent the worker to the site as the “employer” for purposes of workers’ compensation coverage — if there was an agency referral. Which means that the company which would have been the “employer” if the worker had been hired as their full-time employee can argue its workers compensation policy doesn’t apply to the accident because there is a temp agency involved.
There have been cases, however, where Indiana courts have found both the temp agency and the company where the injured occurred to be “employers” under Indiana’s Worker’s Compensation Law. See, Kenwal Steel Corp. v. Seyring, 903 N.E.2d 510 (Ind.Ct.App.2009); Taylor v. Ford Motor Co., 944 N.E.2d 78, 80 (Ind.Ct.App.2011), trans. denied. The issue then becomes which insurance policy applies.
For temps dealing with temp agencies, and especially for those who are hired independently from a temp agency, the legal arguments regarding coverage for injuries is a real one and may need a personal injury lawyer to help get them addressed.
There are also legal claims to be addressed by the temp worker outside of workers’ compensation arguments when the proximate cause of the worker’s harm is a defective product (products liability) or an intentional act (e.g., negligent security, etc.). Accidents involving temp workers can mean lawsuits with many different defendants, depending upon the circumstances of the accident and the severity of the injuries.