Justice for Job Seekers (J4JS)

NICE is the convener and coordinator of the Justice for Job Seekers campaign, a coalition-led advocacy effort committed to ensuring 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.

rosa

Rosa's story:

"They sent me to the address of a laundromat, where the owner informed me that they had not asked for workers. When I went back to the agency, they told me that I was too old and it was for that reason that the laundromat didn’t accept me. With great difficulty we earn a little money to sustain ourselves and provide for our families. It’s not fair to not find a job at the end of the day AND to lose money." - Rosa Pauta, Queens, NY    

The Solution:

Amend the NYS General Business Law to better regulate employment agencies and better protect job seekers from unscrupulous employment agencies. NICE is working with the J4JS coalition to secure the passage of the Justice for Job Seekers Bill (A.3702/S.3415-2015 ). The Justice for Job Seekers Bill will:

  • Deter employment agency abuse by eliminating advance fees. Agencies will no longer be able to charge low-wage workers (Class A; A-1) a fee before placing the worker in a job.
  • Strengthen enforcement by updating penalties. New York’s penalty for employment agency violations has not been updated since the 1970s. The bill will increase the penalty, bringing New York on par with other states like New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, and Hawaii.
  • Empower workers. Workers will have the right to bring impactful civil actions against abusive agencies. Job seeker’s testimony will be considered sufficient for determining how much they are owed by a fraudulent agency when an agency fails to maintain the required records.
  • Protect Workers. Job seekers will be protected from retaliation for exposing wrongdoing at employment agencies. Agencies will be required to post their license number on all advertisements. Employment agencies will be required to give job seekers important information about potential jobs in English and in the job seeker’s language, including the hours of work per day, number of work days per week, the rate of pay, and the anticipated period of employment.

To learn more about the campaign and how you can help, visit the campaign website www.justice4jobseekers.org