It can reduce strain during busy seasons to hire temporary workers, which can mitigate the risks of being understaffed when it comes to anything from packing and lifting to delivery jobs and farm work. But while the accident risks that temporary workers face are technically the same as for year-round employees, the reality is that temp workers can face heightened risks for injury. While it’s small comfort after getting hurt, the good news is that Pennsylvania’s workers' compensation laws cover seasonal holiday workers too—usually.
Injury Risks That Temporary Workers Face
Whether it’s additional staff to help with holiday rushes at a restaurant, store, warehouse, or delivery truck center, or more weather-specific roles such as a winter dispatcher for PennDOT, lifeguard at a pool or aquatics center, or working at a farm for a certain period of time, seasonal workers face a wide range of injury risks.
These injuries risks can include and certainly aren’t limited to:
- Packing, lifting, and stocking heavy boxes
- Accidents while driving on delivery jobs
- Landscaping accidents
- Back injuries and broken bones
- Electrical and burn injuries
- Cold stress injuries
By the nature of their employment, temporary workers often have less experience in a role as well as far less training. This can easily lead to oversights, where employers assume that a temp worker knows about certain processes, or how to operate certain machinery, when in fact they’ve had little to no training in such matters. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Temp workers are often hired to meet increased business volume and tight deadlines. This can put pressure on employees to work faster than normal or faster than is safe, even bypassing necessary safety precautions in the name of meeting deadlines.
Temporary work openings often crop up around winter holidays, which can bring added weather risks, as wet and freezing weather contributes to risks such as slips and falls on icy walkways or more dangerous roads for driving deliveries.
Which Temporary Workers Qualify for Workers’ Comp Benefits?
Under Pennsylvania law, many temporary workers are officially reported as employees to an employer’s insurance company. A lot may depend on the specifics of the employment contract, because there are of course exceptions to this general rule.
A temporary worker may not qualify for workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania if they are:
- Independent contractors (These are workers who are often paid by the job instead of per hour, who use their own equipment, and who make their own schedules.)
- Railroad workers
- Domestic workers (in cases where employers don’t have workers’ comp insurance)
- Farmworkers (when they have worked for only one employer and made less than $1,200 that year OR who do farm work for fewer than 30 days)
There are other exceptions as well, so it’s critical to know the details of your employment contract. It is possible that you have been mislabeled as an independent contractor, or that there is some other mistaken categorization that a workers’ comp attorney can help you correct.
What to Do If You’re Hurt as a Temporary Holiday Worker
Don’t wait to report your injury. If you delay reporting your on-the-job injury by more than 21 days, your benefits will be reduced once you do file a claim. If you wait more than 120 days to make the report, you’ll be denied benefits altogether. So even if something doesn’t hurt too bad immediately, still report the incident and get checked out by the doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment, just in case the full extent of your injuries isn’t clear until much later. If you can, take pictures of the accident site and injuries as well, make sure you get medical records, and hold onto medical bills to keep track of everything.
If you are injured as a temporary worker and you qualify for workers’ comp coverage, the good news is that Pennsylvania workers’ comp is also a no-fault system. Even if you were responsible for the accident, you would still be owed workers’ comp benefits.
What about an occupational illness? The deadlines are different for illness compared to workplace injuries, especially since a job-related illness can often take time to develop and get diagnosed. It is possible to still file a claim a year or two after the exposure that led to your illness, even if the exposure was only during limited seasonal work.
If a temporary worker is hired directly by a company, then a workers’ compensation insurance is responsible for providing benefits to that worker if they’re injured on the job. If company hired a worker from a temp agency, however, then the company might immediately deny any workers’ comp claim, stating that the staffing agency should cover your costs. And in some cases, the employer may be correct about that. For these and other complications, you may need to talk with a workers’ compensation lawyer.
How Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC Can Help Injured Temp Workers
While any workers’ compensation claim can be complicated by an employer, insurance company, or other party not cooperating, filing a claim can be even more complex for an injured temp worker. Whether it’s disputing whether you’ve been mislabeled as an independent contractor, fighting to make sure you get access to the right doctors, or you’re having other trouble getting the insurance company to take your claim seriously, our experienced legal team can help you.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys can make sure you’re made fully aware of the benefits you may be owed under your employment contract, how to get the medical care you need, and what your legal options are.