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Help me break my bonds of temp-slavery.
March 4, 2006 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Can I break a temp-agency contract to work full-time? If so, how?

I recently got a fantastic position as a contract-employee through a temp agency. I like my coworkers, like the job, and would like to work there full-time. I have inquired (on the down-low) with some of my coworkers as to my chances of seeing a full-time opportunity come from this, and it turns out that in order to sever my contract obligations with the temp agency, I have to be essentially "bought-out." Can someone please explain to me how is this not like indentured servitude... or employment slavery?

I realize I signed a contract with the employment agency, and would not even have the position if it were not for their services, but they are getting paid a significant amount of money every week from my employer. And the irony is that if the employer feels the "buyout" is too dear for their wallets, I'll wind up right back at the temp agency again looking for more work... It's like a deranged self-fulfilling system that actively inhibits your chances of ever being free from their clutches.

Also, I would like to pre-emptively recognize the obvious argument some might make: "If you're really that valuable to them, they'll pay. So concentrate on making yourself worth it." But that does not address the root of the problem. They're already getting paid for their services. Why shouldn't the company I work for be able to hire me without having to "buy me" from my masters?

My apologies for the length and anonymity of the question, but I want to ensure there are no possible reprisals.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total)
 
In my experience, the buyout fees are about the same as the fees charged by standard recruiting agencies.

Without this clause, companies would always hire temps, fire the bad ones after a week, and hire the good ones permanently after a few weeks. They'd end up paying something like a couple hundred bucks extra, per hire.

This would put the temp agency out of business, as it costs them that much to find temps to begin with. As such, the agency has the employer sign a contract forbidding the practice.
posted by I Love Tacos at 2:51 PM on March 4, 2006


You probably can't - if it were easy the temp agencies would go out of business pretty quickly.

The company you work for shouldn't be able to get you full time with out 'buying you' as you put it because that would undermine the job the temp agency does. The system only works if everyone can make some money off the deal, the temp agency included. While you're right in saying that it inhibits your ability to leave the 'clutches' of the temp agency, that's only fair if you consider the time and effort (their capital, so to speak) in finding you the job and in matching employers to hundreds of candidates without making the employer do all the up front work of testing and vetting resumes etc. If the employer's could use a temp agency to hire staff and then just keep the staff without paying the temp agency, they'd be called head hunters. At the same time, if you had the time and expertise to spread your resume around to hundreds of businesses and find work on your own, you wouldn't have gone to the temp agency. People usually go through temp agencies for any number of reasons, but two on top are because they can't find other work or because they want to find flexible short term contacts quickly - the temp agency is performing a service for the employee too.

As to your other question, it's not like either indentured servitude or employment slavery because you can quit and go work for anyone else at any time. You're restricted from one employer because you, the employer and the temp agency mutually entered into a agreement of your own free will the benefited all of you. Just because you want more out of the deal then you got does not make you a slave.

You seem to view the 'root of the problem' in terms of benefit only for yourself and secondarily for the company you want to work for. Look at it this way, if the temp agency was being that self-centered, you'd have been locked into a contract that made it impossible for the company to buy you out at all AND prohibited you from competing in similar industry for 5 years.
posted by tiamat at 2:52 PM on March 4, 2006


Is there a length of time the restrictions are valid? In a previous position, I used to hire from temp agencies a lot, we'd "try out" employees for 3 months. If they worked out, we'd hire them on at that time without paying any extra. If they made it through the 3 months, they pretty much always got the position. My guess is that your contract with the temp agency and/or theirs with the company will expire at some point. Talk to the person (at the company where you're working) who deals with the temp agency and ask them how their contracts work and what would have to happen to get hired full time. If the company really wants to hire you full time, they'll either be willing to buy out your contract or wait until they can do so without paying extra for you. Their decision will depend on the length of time left and the difference in how much each scenario will cost the company.
posted by Buck Eschaton at 3:09 PM on March 4, 2006


I'm wondering the same thing as Buck Eschaton. If there's a legitimate full-time opportunity available at the company, then they probably only hired you through a temp agency for convenience's sake, and not becuase they want to easily dump you in a few weeks. It's most likely that your company agreed to hire you through the temp company (yielding the temp company a large commission) for a certain period of time, say, 3-6 months, at which time they are no longer obligated to keep you around in that capacity. If they want to hire you directly before that period of time is over, they are obligated to pay the temping company the amount of commission remaining on your contract. They'd also have to start paying you benefits more soon, so there's a couple reasons they would save money by not doing this.
posted by rxrfrx at 3:31 PM on March 4, 2006


Agree with the others. The other thing to consider is that, assuming your position is high enough, they would likely hire you from under your contract if they want you bad enough. It cost companies a good deal of time and money to get good hires, so they would not be all that set against paying the fee to get you full time - if they want you. I suspect that they want you, but not that bad. They'll let you work out your contract and then see where they want to go with you. If you are in a high turnover position, it is likely they won't want to pay more for you because you are just as likely to become turnover. A sure way to know if you are permanent material right now is to tell them you have another opportunity and are quitting you temp position and taking a full time somewhere else. Of course, they may just let you go too.
posted by qwip at 3:44 PM on March 4, 2006


Employers constantly hire temps to full-time positions. Employers and temp agencies work it out, with the company usually paying a fee that's less than a standard employment agency would charge for a full-time placement.

It gives the employer a low-risk chance to evaluate the worker. The temp agency lowers (and often waives) its placement fee because it wants to keep placing other temps with the employer. The employer wants to keep a familiar and reliable source of temps, which it can't do if it alienates the agency.

Go down the middle with this, and everyone will be happy.
posted by KRS at 5:24 PM on March 4, 2006


I used to temp a lot, low level stuff like receptionist jobs and bank processing (this is in the UK). I switched to permanent jobs several times, and as far as I know, it was never above board.

I just told the temp agency I wouldn't be available to temp anymore - sometimes I gave a flimsy excuse like starting college, or going to work for a previous employer. Then I went to work for the company I'd been temping at. I don't think it was ever worth the temp company's time to chase me and my new employer down, or to check to see if I'd taken a permanent job there.

In my experience with temp agencies, they're pretty chaotic, have incredible turnover of their own staff as well as the temps, and have trouble keeping track of their current temps, let alone past ones.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:39 PM on March 4, 2006


Can I break a temp-agency contract to work full-time?

Look at it this way. It's not your contract with the agency that would need to be broken, it's your employer's.

As tiamat said, employers can't just hire you for a few weeks then poach you from the agency, or the agency would go bust. So your employer either pays the agency fee or breaches its contract.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:13 PM on March 4, 2006


I've known numerous people to get full-time jobs through temp agencies. In almost all cases I knew or could reasonably assume that it was handled above-board with a buyout fee. This is at the corporate level, though, for the most part -- I'm sure that mom & pop places (especially those that, you know, don't need a temp after they hire you) do it under the table all the time, too. It depends on the length and quality of the relationship your boss has with the sales manager at the agency, perhaps.

Many temp agencies actually advertise the possibility of conversion. This may vary by location and tightness of the job market, though.l
posted by dhartung at 12:08 AM on March 5, 2006


Can I break a temp-agency contract to work full-time?

Look at it this way. It's not your contract with the agency that would need to be broken, it's your employer's.


In many cases it's both. When I was temping my agency required I sign a contract to this effect.

The answer anyway is no, you won't be able to get out of this. It is a perfectly valid and legal contractual requirement. Don't sign the contract if you don't like the terms, and don't bitch about the terms if you signed the contract.

Meanwhile, the only sensible approach is to tell your superiors at your current job that you are happy there and interested in full-time employment. If they have a place for you they are unlikely to balk at the agency fee; it is likely a cost of doing business they are used to dealing with. It is always costly to hire new employees.
posted by nanojath at 1:11 AM on March 5, 2006


I got my job through a temp agency- I had to work as an employee of the temp agency for 45 business days before my company could hire me w/o paying any penalty. (Otherwise, I believe would have owed the temp agency 10% of my salary for one year).

If you really want this job, and it sounds like you do, my advice would be to let the HR department/person know. Say something like, "I know I'm just a temp but I would really love to have this job permanently. What kind of obligations do you have to my temp agency?" Make it clear that you want things to be done above-board or they won't see you as an honest person- and why would anybody want to hire someone dishonest?

Do NOT mention anything about this to your temp agency. They will only try to screw you over.
posted by elisabeth r at 8:38 AM on March 5, 2006


Can someone please explain to me how is this not like indentured servitude... or employment slavery?

Yes. It's not, because it's a contract. If you disagree with it, you can find a job elsewhere. You're not obligated to work for anyone.
posted by cellphone at 12:01 PM on March 5, 2006


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