An Argument for a Defamation Lawsuit Against the State of New Jersey (This is Commentary – Not intended as a legal Opinion)

Defamation Law

The argument being made here is a serious one as defamation itself is serious. As we all know, every business depends on its good reputation and is entitled to safeguard it from false charges, slander, and libel that can greatly diminish it in the eyes of the public.

Indeed, because an industry represents thousands of employees who also depend upon that reputation, it sometimes becomes necessary to use the legal means available to defend and protect its good name against those who would harm or destroy it to advance their own nefarious or misguided purposes.

We understand that a state government is usually immune from defamation lawsuits and needs this protection to allow it to pursue, for example, law enforcement prosecutions where a “not guilty” verdict might open it to the charge of “defamation”. And there are other areas where this immunity is needed for the state to freely go about its necessary business.

But this protection should not allow the state to publish damaging falsehoods about a business or industry for no other reason than political expediency or other unworthy purpose and then claim immunity from the defamation it causes to innocent victims. This article claims such unnecessary and unworthy purpose.

New Jersey’s scandalous defamation of the Staffing Industry comes initially and clearly at the very beginning of its temporary workers law document. This is where the foundational “findings and declarations” are enumerated, which form the rationale for the law’s very existence. In this particular case, that rationale seems to be, in large part, due to the general vulnerability to abuse of their rights suffered by temporary workers and being caused by the staffing firms that employ them.

Section 1a of the law directly targets staffing companies for these vulnerabilities to abuse and makes absolutely no distinction in responsibility for these between the licensed staffing agencies and “the large, though unknown, number of unlicensed temporary help service firms that operate outside the purview of law enforcement.”

Even when the law defines its terms(See “Definitions” in Section 2), a staffing firm that is licensed is no different than an unlicensed individual person who does this kind of work. In fact, the definition of a temporary service firm does not even include whether it is licensed or not. The above quote (previous paragraph last sentence, in italics) should make this extremely clear. Nor does the new law suggest that these staffing companies should be licensed.

(Note: NJ has 1,600 auto dealers whose products are “cars” and all are licensed, insured, bonded and more. Staffing agencies whose “products” are “people”, but the state does not seem to be interested in requiring that group of unlicensed to be licensed.

(Note 2: I have a question about these “unknown and unlicensed” staffing firms who “operate outside the purview of law enforcement” (see above section 1a). The state document tells us nothing more about them except that they are a part of the staffing firm community in New Jersey. Who are they? Why are they tolerated? Why grouped together with other staffing firms giving the whole industry the image of being made up by a large segment of “outlaws”? Does the state want to give that impression? Does it suit their purposes in promoting the Temporary Workers Bill of Rights?

In section 1c, the new law lays out what seems to be the most important rationale for why such a temporary workers bill of rights may be necessary. In doing so they point to the current sufferings of temporary workers purportedly at the hands of their staffing agency employers as cited in this quote from this Section 1c of the document: Recent studies and a survey of low-wage temporary laborers themselves find that, generally, these workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse of their labor rights including, unpaid wages, failure to pay for all hours worked, minimum wage and overtime violations, unsafe working conditions, unlawful deductions from pay for meals, transportation, equipment, and other items, as well as discriminatory practices.”

Just for some easy clarification, by using a standard dictionary, when the above New Jersey document says “generally” it means in the larger part, or the majority. And when it says, “particularly vulnerable” it means vulnerable “to an unusual degree”.

So, the “majority” of temporary workers in New Jersey are vulnerable to abuse of their significant labor rights “to an unusual degree”, and the responsible parties in all of this, are the staffing agencies which have made victims out of the majority of their own temporary workers! The same workers that it spends considerable time and money recruiting, and who provide them with most of their income. How absolutely foolish of them!

The list of labor rights violations above (Unpaid wages, minimum wage and overtime, unsafe working conditions etc.) are all extremely serious violations of the law. Yet the state in their document does not quote any of the “Recent Studies” nor the survey of temporary laborers they allude to support their claims.

Before going any further, I would like to pause for a moment to say that it is interesting, and I hope that the state of New Jersey is not trying to be disingenuous, but there is not even the mention of a single, actual abuse or violation of any labor right, but only the vulnerability to abuse of labor rights listed above.

So, which is it. If the labor violations are actual and not simply vulnerabilities, where are the state and federal enforcement agencies that seem to be so robust in every other state, i.e., US Department of Labor, OSHA, State Dept of Labor, etc.?

The Wage and Hour Division of the US labor Department alone collected $630,000,000 in workers back wages in 2018 and 2019 and that division is a very small part of the U.S. Labor Dept. I have never heard of these agencies being ineffective.

If workers are indeed “vulnerable” to abuse of their labor rights, how so? And why? Intimidation to violate any labor right is also a violation of law and can be vigorously prosecuted by both state and federal enforcement agencies with the full support of the courts and local law enforcement.

If all of these violations, intimidations, and vulnerabilities are going on for more than 50% of the employees of New Jersey Staffing firms, many of which are unknown and operating “outside the purview of law enforcement”, which the federal and state agencies have obviously not been able to get control of, how is the “Temporary Workers Bill of Rights” going to make the situation better for them?

I certainly may be wrong, but the only conclusion I can come to is that some kind of hoax is being perpetrated. New Jersey has advertised this story to the entire state while painting themselves as heroes with the noble sounding banner of a “Temporary Workers Bill of Rights”. The unfortunate staffing companies are being described as super villains grifting on their own temporary workers. This political theater has created an obnoxious and libelous slander that has defamed the entire staffing industry in New Jersey.

The two suggestions I would have to mitigate the damage or correct it would be for the staffing industry to bring a defamation lawsuit against the state of New Jersey and couple it with a vigorous public relations campaign.

As Always Stay Safe and Pray for Ukraine!