Who should pay for Interview Attendance? | DCR Workforce Blog

Who should pay for Interview Attendance?

Most staffing firms do not pay temporary employees for the time they spend on interviewing with clients/MSPs; or even for their commuting/travel expenses. This is becoming an issue when quality guarantees fail to satisfy clients, who want to conduct pre-assignment interviews, with staffing firms supposedly employing them.

Whose baby is it, anyway?

In a recent replay of an old episode of ‘Candid Camera’ on TV, the guests checking out of a hotel were all caught unawares by an addition of $37 towards charges for usage of water to their bills. All were livid and instantly became highly argumentative – except one who said – fine, my company is picking up the tab anyway, so go ahead and charge me! That kind of attitude is a luxury not enjoyed by many contingent work seekers when they go and attend job interviews with MSPs/clients. A candidate needs to be present for an interview, and may or may not have enough money to get around and will lose out on earnings during the time spent on attending the interview; the client will never pay any costs for fear of being caught up in co-employment claims, the MSP and the supplier may find that they can never recoup the outlay of funds should the candidate not get selected or leave the job within a few months. Ultimately, the candidate is made to decide if the job is what he/she really wants and foot his/her own bills – so kindly do not add charges for water!

Objection, my Lord:

Issues like this are giving rise to lawsuits, with ways and means being explored to magnify the exposure through bringing in related claims like waiting time penalties, civil penalties etc. The dice are loaded heavily on both sides and the arguments are presented here, without any conclusion being attempted. It is for the proactive manager to take the ultimate call on what the best course of action could be.

Arguments for reimbursement by Staffing Firms:

  • Interview time becomes compensable because it is controlled by the staffing firm.
  • The employees are considered to be selling for staffing firms – and therefore considered as working for them – by competing for assignments.
  • Traditionally, staffing firms have claimed that their employment relationship with the candidate continues even during periods between assignments and the end of an assignment does not imply a discharge.

Arguments for no reimbursement by Staffing Firms:

  • It may be assumed that the candidates from the higher wage groups, with rare skill sets, may require face-to-face interviews/interactions. These and the independent contractors can afford to personally invest a little cash towards a promising opportunity – if they really want it.
  • The lower income groups may not have to travel huge distances as the trend in such roles is to seek local candidates rather than have someone travel from Detroit to California.
  • One more argument (which will probably have no takers) is that staffing firms are already running on shoe-string budgets and struggling to pay the state unemployment taxes etc. and really cannot afford more costs especially when they cannot really be called investments that will fetch a return.

Strategies to avoid Risk:

If the staffing firms are unable to totally do away with the client interviews altogether, they might consider the following courses of action, in a prudent and considered manner, provided they see any benefit through them:

  • Paying the candidates for their time – but only at the minimum wage rate rather than the usual rates of the candidate. Concerns about admission of culpability through this action must be toned down by recognizing that the period of liability will be shorter in the event of litigation and the low exposure itself might act as a deterrent for any plans of a class action suit.
  • Negotiate terms with the client to share the cost partially or even fully – and find the need for interviews taking a significant downturn!
  • Make process and operational changes and obtain waivers or acknowledgements from temporary employees, and abolish the all claims of no discharge between assignments.
  • Make interview attendance voluntary, and reduce the degree of control exerted on candidates. Even the amount of assistance provided may be considered to be control.

Up till now, few staffing companies have really paid any compensation for temporary wage workers and this new approach will see most of them scrambling to pay wages for the time spent on the interview; but the last word on this is not in yet.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.