Monday, June 14, 2010

Before Benefits Accrue, Staffing Agency Swiftly Kicks Your Butt To The Curb



"I have been a contract attorney in the SF Bay area for the past 4 years or so. In that time I have worked through approximately 6-7 staffing services. I have noticed that many of them tend to "lose my number" once I have been on project(s) for 4-5 months or so.

Most of these staffing services offer benefits like paid holidays and sick time, but only to workers who have worked over 1000 hours for them. (1000 hours is approximately 6 months of 40 hour weeks.) I have had agencies send me out on projects for a while, but once I get close to the 6 month mark, I suddenly become invisible and never find work through that agency again. Whether it's one longer project or cumulative shorter projects, once I get close to that 6 month mark, the agency never calls again and sends other workers out on projects. There is never any indication of trouble or dissatisfaction with the work I've done, the work just stops.

I don't doubt that staffing agencies would use workers for a pre-determined period of time (up to 4-5 months) and then find new workers to send out on projects so they don't get stuck paying pesky benefits to their workers just because they're legally obligated to do so. I'm just curious whether anybody else has had a similar experience in becoming invisible to staffing services once they approach the benefits date."

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Over at the Balkinization blog, support for the growing legion of Scambloggers who want to keep you from going to law school has come from an unlikely source: St. Johns University School of Law Professor Brian Tamanaha (pictured). Tamanaha, the Chief Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo Professor of Law, as well as a former Interim dean of the School of Law in 1998-1999 and Professor of the Year in 2001, wrote yesterday that it was time for his fellow law professors to "wake up to the casualties of our enterprise."

Tamanaha asks law professors to take a hard look at blogs such as Third Tier Reality, Esq. Never, Exposing the Law School Scam, Jobless Juris Doctor, Temporary Attorney: The Sweatshop Edition, which he believes "make a strong case that something is deeply wrong with law schools." The present dismal employment situation "was not created by the current recession -- which merely spread the pain up the chain into the lower reaches of elite schools. This has been going on for years," he writes. Tamanaha seems to agree with the assertions repeated throughout the Scamblogosphere that


law schools pad their employment figures -- 96% employed -- by counting as "employed" any job at all, legal or non-legal, including part time jobs, including unemployed graduates hired by the school as research assistants (or by excluding unemployed graduates "not currently seeking" a job, or by excluding graduates who do not supply employment information). They know that the gaudy salary numbers advertised on the career services page -- average starting salary $125,000 private full time employment" -- are actually calculated based upon only about 25% of the graduating class (although you can’t easily figure this out from the information provided by the schools).
To his law professor colleagues who protest that they are themselves not "scammers" and are simply providing students with the opportunity to have a go at a legal career, Tamanaha says that while this rationale made sense when annual tuition was $10,000 to $15,000, it begins to ring hollow when annual tuition reaches $30,000 to $40,000, as it now is at many schools.

Tamanaha says it is now time for law schools to provide straightforward, candid information about the employment numbers of recent graduates; to shrink the number of graduates; and to hold the line on tuition increases. "The negative consequences for individuals and for society of the extraordinary price of entry to the legal profession will become more apparent over time," he says. "And it all happened under our watch."

http://legalblogwatch.typepad.com/legal_blog_watch/2010/06/law-professor-supports-scambloggers-calls-for-his-colleagues-to-wake-up-to-reality-.html

Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit paranoid to me. I've been doing contract attorney work in the bay area for a few agencies for nearly five years now. There is only one agency which consistently finds me work, they have a 1000 hour bonus, and I've received said bonus 6 times now. The only downside to the bonus is that's taxed at a higher rate than regular income. Other agencies I've worked for had a one day per 450 hours worked bonus, which was great for covering sick days. Sounds to me the problem is that the blogger isn't finding consistent work and blaming it on benefits. In actuality, blame lies with the poor economy and prolly not being on the agency's radar. Network and do a good job is my advice.

Anonymous said...

Network!

Anonymous said...

I don't think you are paranoid. The last couple of years I've been primarily with one agency, though I have done some short term gigs with other agencies, and invariably whenever I come up to the vacation requirements or holiday pay requirements they no longer have work for me, even thought I know they are staffing other projects at the time, and other people I worked with were getting staffed on these projects. I haven't had holiday pay or vacation pay in over two years and I've billed over 2000 hours a year. It sucks.

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me. Once I approach 1,000 hours, I am dead to the agency until January hits. Why is the agency going to bleed bonus hours, when there are literally thousands of unemployed law grads scrounging for work?

Anonymous said...

You should work at E.P. Dine. There, you have to pay for their so called benefits package, which is above market rate. They make it clear you better sign up for the benefits or else. The longer you pay for these benefits, the more commish for E.P. Dine.

Which only proves one way or the other, we wind up paying for these illusory benefits.

JD Underdog said...

I was very lucky to get bennies after temping over a year, but that's not the way to live. Too bad it's virtually the only choice for JDs.

FrankZ said...

10:13, you're nuts. I've worked for Dine on numerous long-term projects. Never was pushed into any benefit package except their 401k. You have to opt out if you want. They offer health and other insurance programs. I was getting my insurance through Healthy NY / Empire BCBS at the time, so I didn't sign up.

Thing is, their plan has some decent options. In fact, the money in my Dine 401k outperformed my other retirement fund last year. In 2009, my Dine 401k made 38.7%.

They also give vacation pay without question when you hit the proper hours.

Dine isn't perfect, but I've always been paid on time. I certainly don't think they were out to rip me off.

Anonymous said...

11:09 AM Frank Z.


Hi Elaine!


P.S. E.P. Dine also bounces checks. Has happened to many people. When questions they said "It happens. Why are you making such a big deal of it? You don't want to get known as a problem person."

Anonymous said...

11:09 AM


Doesn't answer the point that they don't pay for any benefits, you have to pay yourself when you work for "Dine". Also doesn't mention the commish issue.

Anonymous said...

Are there any agencies with good benefits?

Anonymous said...

I worked for e.p.dine and never was pushed to buy benefits. I haven't heard about this benefit situation before. I think it is paranoid.

My experiences with the agencies in New York have not been awlful like many of the posters here. I wish they would call me more often, but besides from that it has been good. There are no real prospects out there and they keep me busy. I can't complain. Working for a firm is no picnic either.

The best benefit package was offered through Hudson. Update's medical was a shitty plan regarding coverage and more expensive.

FrankZ said...

Sorry, I've only worked for Dine as a reviewer. I'm working elsewhere at the moment, but I hear that they are staffing up for something right now.

They've never bounced one of my checks. Perhaps they have in the past. I've never run into that problem with them, though. Generally, I've been happy on projects with Dine.

For health insurance, I highly recommend people look at http://www.ins.state.ny.us/website2/hny/english/hny.htm . If you can't go in as a sole proprietor, then it's not hard to meet the "small business" requirements. There's not reason to have your coverage tied to some temporary employer when NY state has a great program already set up.

The coverage is excellent. I have the Empire BCBS HMO. Never had a single problem with it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I used to temp through Dine, and I never had a problem or was pushed to get any benefits/401k package. And they never bounced a check.

Anonymous said...

Worked for Dine on a very long term project at a time when ST was there with CB - we royally were robbed, certain actions taken blatantly against tax law, and several people on this long term project were screwed out of very deserved bonuses...ST placed operatives around project who sucked up to him (mostly females, or others like) and the purpose was to gather evidence of racist remarks, or ones that could falsely be colored as such, so that ST could move in his friends, deny bonuses, fire people.

Someone at Dine must have woken up, and fired them.....hope it is run better now. Appears that then to avoid issuing checks that would boiunce, they profiled peope they thought would not cause a lawsuit if they didn't get their bonus. If they are bouncing checks now, they fear a lawsuit for failing to give bonus more that lawsuit on kiting checks.

Anonymous said...

Beacon Hill has excellent benies. Just opened so not a ton of work through them yet but the benefits sound good.

Anonymous said...

Is the United merger at Dine still going on?

Anonymous said...

In San Francisco, sick time starts to accrue after 90 calendar days, not 1000 hrs.

Anonymous said...

Some agencies will allow an attorney to work for several years and then suddenly cut them off.

UPDATE/UPDATE, for example, as well ad HUDSON/HUDSON in NYC will not allow attorneys to work over a certain period because the attorneys accummulate "vacation pay" at a rate of one paid day per every 200 hour (as opposed to 500 or 600 for rookies, if still offered at all) and they dont want to pay that out to loyal employees anymore.

Anonymous said...

YOU'RE SO RIGHT!!!

Cali and Christina, the main staffers at UPDATE at Update are two mean bitches - and they have blacklisted me for that very reason.

Anonymous said...

Update has a long history of blacklisting, and it is done unrelated to work performance.

It appears to be related to the frustrations, judgments, false perceptions, jealousies, lack of professionalism, biases, and need to nail anyone with experiences or opportunities far broader than the recruiters.

It appears they do not want anyone to work for them who makes them feel that they "missed out" in life on the life choices, life paths,or basic opportunities. Theory being such persons are more difficult to keep under their thumb, and my goodness, might not always be available to take whatever they dictate. Not interested in truly independent types, only those willing to be their on call slaves, and at any price, no matter how ridiculous. It keeps them in their lifestyle. Those they place are only as valuable to them if they can be their regularly to line their own bank accounts. They probab ly assume any attorney willing to do such work is a real sucker, so why not exploit them if they are that stupid.

This is what occurs when people feel stuck and do not know how to get out of their own way or think "out of the box". It is sad. Reflects them, not those they nail. This occurs at all agencies amongst and between most recruiters, perm and staffing/temp.

Anonymous said...

Same thing happens here in DC. Vacation time accrual and bonuses often come at the yearly mark with a set amount of hours (as much as 1800 over 1 year) and loyalty (as in you haven't worked for anyone else). Most often, agencies will balk at paying out even if you accrue said time. Once I had accrued my time and had a project end the next week. The agency never staffed me again nor did they pay out for what I had earned.

Anonymous said...

I will rejoice the day most of these staffing agencies face the inevitable of competition eating them alive, forcing them to liquidate or BK, or forcing them to merge with another.

Maybe then, the law firms will begin hiring directly, even if by using their own related LLC - cut the staffing agencies out completely.

Let them fold.

Anonymous said...

"Not interested in truly independent types, only those willing to be their on call slaves, and at any price, no matter how ridiculous. "

No shit.

That type of person isn't going to sit in front of a computer doing dull work with no possibility of advance or gaining relevant experience. The recruiters are smart enough to relize this. They want some joker who will sit there doing a pointless task and put up with crazy staff attorneys. That's how they make their money.

As far as them jerking you around regarding benefits.

No shit.

It's a recession and they don't have to be nice to you. Despite what you may beleive learning to code docs isn't exactly substanative legal work.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Many of the best benefits, ones that can't be taken away or have the requirements change by the agencies, are through the city of San Fancisco. One commentator mentioned the sick days, which start to accrue after you have worked for a firm for 90 days. The 90 day qualification period does NOT have to happen in the city of SF. I believe it is 1 hour for each 30 hour worked. San Francisco also has a "Healthy City" program with either a medical reimbursement account for folks working in the city and living outside. The firm contributes a mandated amount into each employees account based on hours worked. The hours are capped each month.
Some agencies will NOT let you know about either of these benefits, will play dumb, ask for repeated information and clarification if YOU mention them, and will only grudgingly pay them.
Luckily, the city has enforcement divisions and can fine the employer for failing to follow the ordinances.
I have received benefits from agencies and haven't personally known anyone who was not hired simply because they were getting close to receiving benefits.
Like a lot of conspiracy theories agencies freezing people out for benefits you out requires a lot more coordination and attention to detail than agencies have, imho.

Anonymous said...

Check out ERISA § 510, 29 U.S.C. 1140. Also McLendon v. Continental Can Co. in which it was held that an employer violated ERISA § 510 by implementing a plan to lay off employees before they became eligible for benefits covered by ERISA.

Maybe you should gather up thousands of dollars and sue. LOL!

Mae Parker said...

I don't think you are paranoid. In the current economy, staffing agencies have more workers than they need. In fact, most are swamped with resumes. From a financial standpoint, why would they pay extra to keep one person when there is 10 more in line? From a business standpoint, this practice is hideous. Why wouldn't they take care of the people who have been loyal to them? As an experienced head of an Atlanta staffing agency, I do not see the logic...or the heart.

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