Justice for Job Seekers Campaign

NICE is the coordinator of the Justice for Job Seekers campaign (J4JS), an effort to ensure low-wage and immigrant workers have fair access to good jobs and better protections against fraud when using employment agencies.

The Problem:

Through a 2012 participatory action research study, NICE found that New Yorkers are spending thousands of dollars to find jobs through employment agencies only to be scammed and exploited by those agencies. Job seekers are charged illegal fees, defrauded by unlicensed agencies, and refused reimbursement even when an agency fails to place a worker at a job. Job seekers are seldom told they can pay fees in installments, so they pay up-front and in full. Additionally, when a job seeker does find a job, he or she often finds that the job pays below the minimum wage, is unsafe, or is exploitative in other ways. Our study in Queens, New York found that:

  • 81% of survey respondents who did not find a job through an agency were still charged a fee.
  • One third of survey respondents were offered jobs by agencies paying below the state minimum wage.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 agencies did not have a Department of Consumer Affairs license visibly posted, as required by law.
  • Workers who receive written contracts from agencies are more likely to secure jobs and less likely to experience fraud. However, among immigrant job seekers surveyed, two thirds were not given a written contract.

The Solution:

Amend the NYS General Business Law to better regulate employment agencies and better protect job seekers from unscrupulous employment agencies.

Pass A.10672/S.8102 provides fair and meaningful protections to low-wage workers as they look for work in New York State.

1) Deter employment  agency abuse by amending the General Business law to eliminate the advance fee exception and no longer allow employment agencies to charge low-wage workers (Class A; A1) a fee before placing them in a job. Class A and A1 workers are the only class of workers subject to advance fees under current law. The bill’s reforms would provide low-wage workers the same protections afforded to all other workers, who may only be charged a fee after an agency has secured them a job.

2) Strengthen enforcement by targeting repeat offenders and increasing penalties against violation employment agencies. These changes will bring New York up to part with other states like New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, and Hawaii so as to provide a greater and more effective deterrent against employment agency abuse

3) Creates new avenues for relief for victims of fraud living outside of New York City by granting the Office of New Americans (ONA) authority to process complaints and refer cases to the appropriate state agencies. A trusted office among immigrants with strong community presence in various areas of the state, ONA will improve access to state enforcement agencies for a marginalized population that typically faces many barriers to coming forward and exercising their rights.

The existing laws make it exceedingly difficult for low-wage job seekers to hold employment agencies accountable. The Justice for Job Seekers bill will make it harder for unscrupulous employment agencies to continue functioning with impunity and will ensure that all job seekers in New York State are protected. For these reasons, NICE strongly urges adoption of this legislation.