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3 Warning Signs When Choosing a Staffing Firm

A man holds a stop sign in front of his face

As a staffing and recruiting agency, we do so much more than just find you job candidates and workers. We can make your job easier by providing on-site management, acting as a resource for the job market, and quickly filling positions from C-level executives to technical contractors to administrative staff and seasonal workers. But even the top staffing firms have major limits. We can’t—and won’t—ignore regulations that could put the health, safety, and well-being of our candidates and workers at risk. Trust me: You wouldn’t want us to. Any staffing firm that offers shady shortcuts could put your entire business at risk.

As you search for a reputable staffing partner, take note of the following promises. They’re warning signs the staffing firm will lead you down a dark path filled with penalties, litigation or worse.

Claim #1: Don’t worry about safety regulations with temporary employees.

If you’re an employer or HR manager, you know many U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) policies backwards and forwards. But you may not be as clear on how OSHA regulates temporary employees.

In short, OSHA makes the safety of temporary employees a priority. It currently holds both the employer and the temporary staffing firm equally responsible for ensuring that safety.

The agency has found that temporary workers are more vulnerable to workplace safety, health hazards and even retaliation than traditional workers and that temporary workers are often not given adequate safety and health training or explanations of their duties. While the joint-employer responsibility between the host employer and staffing agency is continually being tested in court, OSHA’s official stance remains:

“Both host employers and staffing agencies have roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements and they share responsibility for ensuring worker safety and health…To ensure that there is a clear understanding of each employer’s role in protecting employees, OSHA recommends that the temporary staffing agency and the host employer set out their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract. Including such terms in a contract will ensure that each employer complies with all relevant regulatory requirements, thereby avoiding confusion as to the employer’s obligations.”

Be skeptical of any staffing firm promising to carry the full load of ensuring worker safety or trying to ensure you that temporary workers don’t need the training or safety measure other workers need. We can help by making the process easier and by offering on-site management, but the shared responsibility for worker safety is real, as this recent lawsuit over a fatal auto auction accident illustrates.

Claim #2: We can classify and pay workers however it best suits you.

The use of independent contractors has skyrocketed, but many workers classified as such really shouldn’t be. At face value, there may seem to be a lot of grey area to work with—many employees have flex time and remote working arrangements that can make it seem like they qualify as independent contractors. But reputable staffing firms know the difference. The IRS lays out a common law test along with a 20-point checklist to ensure workers who are due the benefits and reduced tax obligation of being an employee get them. Plenty of Texas oil and gas companies, startups and manufacturers are learning the hard way.

It’s also important to stay away from a staffing firm that promises to work-around overtime pay, either by misclassifying employees as contractors, treating non-exempt workers as exempt, mishandling timesheets, or other means. Overtime laws are rapidly changing, so it’s important to stay up-to-date. Simply paying a non-exempt worker regular pay instead of time and a half for any time over 40 per week can land you into trouble, as this Houston staffing firm recently found out.

Claim #3: We don’t need to follow the same I-9 verification or other hiring/onboarding rules.

If you don’t want ICE auditors knocking on your door, make sure your staffing firm has mastered the Form I-9 process, used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. Fines for violations can be in the millions of dollars as this company found out.

It’s also important to be sure your staffing firm is on top of the latest hiring regulations in each jurisdiction in which you’ll employ workers. This includes ban-the-box and criminal background checks as well as salary history inquiries and other U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issues.
The bottom line is that the government considers host employers and staffing firms partners when it comes to most employment regulations. While your staffing partner can make your job easier, it’s up to you to choose one wisely. For additional criteria to use, access The HT Group’s Guide to Hiring a Reputable Staffing Firm.