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Employee of Temp Agency Was Barred from Suing Client Company

By on October 25, 2019 in Key Defenses with 0 Comments

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.



About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.


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