Busting Those Co-Employment Myths

Most of what you think you know about co-employment is false.

That was a message that came through loud and clear at this fall's Contingent Workforce Strategies Summit, held in Dallas. And talk about a topic that can generate some heat! When attorneys Eric Rumbaugh of Michael Best & Friedrich and Alden Bianchi of Mintz Levin laid out their case at the conference, a wave of visible shock ran through many in the room.

What was that shock about? Perhaps it had to do with some of the long held practices that companies use in the name of reducing co-employment risk. Think term limits on the amount of time an employee can work for a company as a temp, or whether companies can view data on temporary employee pay rates or whether, for God's sake, contingent workers can attend company meetings and social events.

In the opinion of our legal beagles all of those practices really don't matter much at all in terms of whether companies are involved in co-employment. The fact of the matter is if you hire temps then you are a co-employer. So get over it already! There is no way to avoid it and in many cases, such as workers comp injury claims, it's a damn good thing to be a co-employer

Over the years I've seen that playing the "co-employment card" is often the fastest way to end all signs of intelligent conversation among contingent workforce managers and staffing executives. Once the phrase gets invoked, heads start nodding and every one starts backing down in the face of the dreaded co-employment police who will no doubt raid your company on a moments notice! And if that doesn't work, then just give them a knowing look and tell them it's related to "the Microsoft case." 

As Rumbaugh and Bianchi pointed out, there is hope. In most cases, the expensive risks of co-employment can be mitigated by a few simple adjustments to benefits plans. Once that happens hopefully we can all get back to using contingent workers when and how it makes the most sense to meet business goals, rather than twisting ourselves into knots running from the co-employment cops.


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Allan Finch 01/11/2012 04:17 pm

I would love to know where the author of this article is getting his information. This article does more harm than good in my opinion. Staffing firms are NOT co-employers. Staff leasing companies are but they are not the same. Yes there are certain states that have laws with respect to WC but to call this co-employment is absurd!

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