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When individuals work for staffing agencies, interesting legal questions often arise. In Uribe v. Quartz Master, A-4071-17T1 (App. Div. May 2, 2019), Alberto Uribe was injured working for On Target Staffing, LLC, a job placement agency. On Target had a “Temporary Employee Work Agreement” with Quartz Master, where it placed Uribe. That agreement provided that Uribe needed to discuss any work issues with On Target supervision only, would get his paychecks from On Target, and would notify On Target in the event of a work injury.
Uribe worked at Quartz Master for several years in the warehouse. His Quartz Master supervisor, Mr. Patel, would tell Uribe what work to do. Uribe was injured at Quartz Master while performing his job duties and received workers’ compensation benefits from On Target. He then brought a civil law suit against Quartz Master.
The defense to the law suit filed against Quartz Master was simple: Quartz Master argued that Uribe was equally its employee as well as the employee of On Target. Uribe essentially had two employers. The trial judge agreed with Quartz Master. The Court analyzed the test for special employment and found that Quartz Master was by law a special employer: 1) Uribe had an implied contract to work for Quartz Master because he accepted work from them; 2) Uribe performed work duties under the direction of Quartz Master; 3) Mr. Patel, his supervisor at Quartz Master, directed his work; 4) Quartz Master essentially paid Uribe’s wage by payment to On Target; 5) Quartz Master had the right to advise On Target if it wanted to get rid of Uribe.
The Appellate Division agreed with the trial judge and affirmed the dismissal of Uribe’s civil suit under the exclusive remedy provision in workers’ compensation. The Court was persuaded that Uribe was doing the work of Quartz Master for years. He worked in their warehouse loading trucks with marble and granite slabs. Of equal importance to the Court was that Mr. Patel had the power to direct On Target not to send Uribe to Quartz Master. The court said it did not matter that Quartz Master never exercised this right: the company actually had the power to do so.
When a client company of a temporary agency considers the benefits of working with a temporary agency, chief among them is that the client is not liable for workers’ compensation, as the staffing agency generally contracts to handle workers’ compensation. Moreover, the client is immune from civil suit. You could say that the client has the best of both worlds: immunity from workers’ compensation and civil liability.
John H. Geaney, Esq., is an Executive Committee Member and a Shareholder in Capehart Scatchard's Workers’ Compensation Group. Mr. Geaney concentrates his practice in the representation of employers, self-insured companies, third-party administrators, and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act. Should you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Mr. Geaney at 856.914.2063 or by e‑mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.