Running out of time
November 14, 2008 12:07 AM   Subscribe

A two-part workplace question. HR people and anyone familiar with contract employment, heads up.

Last month, I panicked because I realized my employment contract at Big Credit Card Company was nearing its two-year limit. I was afraid that the month of December (which this year features my brother's wedding as well as Christmas) would be my last month of employment. So I e-mailed my rep at the staffing company who placed me in my current position. Rep said fear not—due to my Jan. '07 start date, the end date wouldn't fall until April '09 instead of Jan. '09.


On Thursday this week, I had a meeting with my hiring manager at the credit card company, who informed me that the negotiations either to grant me an extra extension or to hire me off my contract weren't fruitful, so my last day would be in Jan. '09. I informed my hiring manager that my rep at the staffing company had said otherwise, to which my hiring manager said he knew nothing. Following the meeting, I forwarded the e-mail between me and my staffing company rep to my hiring manager, who said he'd get back to me.

Now. Realistically, I don't think the staffing company's e-mail will change very much about the credit card company's two-year policy for contractors. (Contractors can work no longer than two years, and then must take a 90-day hiatus before they can be brought back in, if needed.) I suspect the most it will do is get my rep in some hot water for not having her facts straight. But maybe I'm wrong. January '07 to January '09 does make sense, so I understand my hiring manager's point. However, as recently as last month, the company that negotiated my contract with the credit card company did make a point to tell me I was wrong to think the contract would be up in January.

Part 1: Is the fact that I have written documentation from my staffing company basically saying, "No, you're wrong about January. Your end date will fall in April instead," worth anything? What's my best course of action if the staffing company rep says, "Oops, my bad. You've got 90 fewer days left than we both thought"?

Part 2: Any tips for staying psyched up about a job when I know the end date is looming closer and closer, and there's nothing I can do about it? I've been terminated (by surprise) before, but this is the first experience I've had with what's basically a planned layoff. I do not look forward to starting over somewhere else, and I'm not at all in the mood right now to begin trying to sell myself to another employer. Also, it's hard to avoid feeling like the last two years have been a waste of time. My job duties won't be going away any time soon, and someone else will need to fill my seat (in all likelihood, someone trained by me.)
posted by emelenjr to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
At the end of the day, your staffing company is a customer of Big Credit Card Company. They determine who is hired and for how long, not your staffing company. The email won't change that in any way. You should go through the proper channels (your HR rep at BCCC, if you have one, would be best) to find out for sure. It is possible that your staffing company rep got information from someone else at BCCC.

You may need to facilitate a meeting or discussion between the appropriate parties, but again it is BCCC who determines your fate.
posted by Nixie Pixel at 5:42 AM on November 14, 2008

Don't take it personally, they are just trying to avoid laws which require anyone working a temp job for more than 2 years to be classed as a permanent employee and offered benefits.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:14 AM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Toughen up Princess.

You are a Contractor. Contracts finish, contracts sometimes get extended and sometimes get cut short. Act professionally. A future job WILL depend on how you act in this current contract. And if that means training your replacement then you need to do that in the best, most professional manner that you can. Part of being a contractor is to continually sell yourself and start over again. If you struggle with that concept then take a permanent role.

As a contractor you should have:
* A completely up to date CV ready to hand out and with the on-line sites.
* At least 3 months worth of living expenses saved up (for sickness or non-employment)

I do my budget for the year on 40 weeks worth of employment so I don't get any nasty shocks. I normally end up working about 42-46 weeks by choice - one of the reasons I took up contracting was to take time off for travelling.
posted by lamby at 7:32 AM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm also a Contractor.

I do the exact things that lamby does. Have savings built up, and have an updated CV ready. In fact, I'm revising and updating mine right now, even though I'm looking at a few more months at my current gig. Handle yourself professionally with both the contracting agency and the BCCC - while you may not be able to work at BCCC any more, the contracting agency should be looking for other jobs that you could work at.

Here's what I'd also recommend: if health insurance is important to you, be sure to investigate your COBRA options. It's pricey, but can be a lifesaver. When I make my budget, for the months I have off, I make sure to include the price of COBRA coverage, as I always take out COBRA between gigs. (It's actually financially worth it for me - the cost of the COBRA insurance is roughly the same cost as my prescription medications at full price, and I can sleep at night knowing I'd have coverage for the occasional car accident or zombie attack.)

Also, look into your state's Unemployment laws. If you're getting laid off, you're getting laid off, and you may qualify for UI. On the last day of my contract, I open a UI claim.

The final thing I would check, with the contracting agency, is to see if you can come back to BCCC after a certain period of time. At Microsoft, for example, you can only work 365 days, then you get laid off for 100. Savvy contractors usually have it arranged ahead of time to come back to Microsoft on Day 101, sometimes to their old job.

Contracting is definitely not for everyone, but if you learn the ins and outs, and can make it work for you, it can be a fun way to work.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:57 AM on November 14, 2008

Response by poster: Update: My staffing company rep was extremely apologetic about leading me to believe that I would have three extra months. It turns out a 90-day emergency extension had been discussed, but ultimately not approved. (Justification: I'm not working on a project with an end date that can be extended—for the last two years, I have had ongoing job duties that could just as easily be performed by someone new.) My rep, who never told me that the emergency extension discussions were going on, later explained to me that she was banking on the extension being approved and so just straight up told me that I would be employed through April. Oops, her bad.

I'll be filing for employment. I'll need that COBRA coverage, too, but that's always been hard to afford because of my preexisting condition. Condo fees, mortgage payments, auto loan payments, utilities... I'm really starting the new year off right, aren't I?

I have a couple résumés out for non-contract positions in my field, and I also have three different staffing companies looking out for me. The problem with contracting again is that the majority of positions available through those agencies are with my current employer, and after January 8, I won't be able to work there again until April.

Thanks for the suggestions. If anyone is in need of a writer/editor with more than 10 years of experience at newspapers, magazines and online, let me know.
posted by emelenjr at 4:27 AM on December 15, 2008

« Older How do married same-sex couples hold title?   |   What Italian dish makes the least mess? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.