What is the difference between an Employment Agency, a Placement Agency, and a Staffing Agency?

An employment agency is defined by Massachusetts law as, "…any person who conducts, in whole or in part an agency for the purpose of procuring or attempting to procure permanent or temporary help or employment or engagements, or for the registration of persons seeking such help, employment or engagement, or for giving information as to where and of whom such help, employment or engagement may be procured, where a fee is exacted or attempted to be collected for such service; provided, however…the term ‘employment agency’ shall not include a firm none of whose fees or charges are paid either directly or indirectly by any applicant for employment, unless such firm is engaged in providing domestic employees, nor shall such definition apply to any person conducting a business which consists of employing individuals directly for the purpose of furnishing part time or temporary help to others or to any person conducting a business which consists solely of providing employers or prospective employers, by electronic means, biographical information, background and experience of applicants for temporary employment, help or engagement.” (M.G.L. c. 140, §46A)  Employment agencies are required to be licensed by the Department of Labor Standards in accordance with the Law (M.G.L. c. 140, sec. 46A-46R).

A placement agency is  a person who conducts in whole or in part a business in which a fee is exacted or attempted to be collected for: procuring or attempting to procure permanent or temporary help or employment or engagements; or registering individuals seeking such help, employment, or engagement; or giving information as to where and of whom such help, employment, or engagement may be procured, but who (i) employs such individuals for the purpose of furnishing part time or temporary help, or (ii) does not assess fees to any job applicant or worker for employment placement,  or (iii) conducts a business which consists solely of providing employers or prospective employers, by electronic means, biographical information, background and experience of applicants for temporary employment, help or engagement.

Agencies that procure or provide temporary or part time employment to any individual who then works under the supervision or direction of a work site employer are staffing agencies.   There is not a “staffing agency license” or “staffing agency registration;” staffing agencies must always be either licensed as employment agencies or registered as placement agencies with the Department of Labor Standards, in accordance with the Employment Agency Law (M.G.L. c. 140, sec. 46A-46R).  Staffing agencies are also subject to the Temporary Workers Right to Know Law (M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 159C).

What’s the difference between a license and a registration?

Agencies which meet the definition of “employment agency” under M.G.L. c. 140, §46A must be licensed.  Agencies which meet any exception to the term “employment agency” must be registered.  Both are valid for one year.  Both require completion of an application sent to the Department of Labor Standards for processing. 

Do Department of Labor Standards staff inspect licensed employment agencies?

Yes. M.G.L. c. 140, § 46A and 46Q gives DLS broad inspection authority over both licensed and registered agencies.

"The commissioner, or any duly authorized agent or inspector designated by him, shall have authority to inspect the premises, registers, contract forms, receipt books, application forms, referral forms, reference forms, reference reports, financial and other records of fees charged and refunds made of each employment agent, which are essential to the operation of such agency, and of each applicant for an employment agency license…"( M.G.L. c. 140, § 46Q)

The Employment Agency Law requires that licensed employment agencies be inspected every six (6) months, and that an inspection of agency premises must be conducted before any new license may be issued. DLS Compliance Officers inspect the records and premises of agencies for compliance with the Employment Agency Law and Temporary Workers Right to Know Law.

I understand that DLS looks very closely at applicant fees. What is considered to be an applicant fee?

An applicant fee is any money or other valuable consideration paid by an applicant or worker to the employment agency for employment procurement services rendered by the agency. Examples of fees may include, but are not limited to, money paid to an agency from the worker for a placement, and a modeling agency commission, or a “headhunting” fee charged by an employment agency to a job applicant for securing a permanent employment with a company.

May I charge a fee to an individual to fill out an application to be listed with my agency?

No; this is considered to be a registration fee which is prohibited by the Employment Agency Law.

How do I become a licensed employment agency?

In order to obtain a license you must complete an application.  Initial license/registration applications are available HERE.  Licenses and registrations are valid for one year.  Renewal applications are available HERE.

My business uses more than one name. Must I fill out an application for each name?

Yes. Each name that your business uses must be licensed separately.

My business has more than one location. Must I fill out an application for each location?

Yes.  Each location that your business uses must be licensed separately.

How do I know when my license is about to expire?

While DLS at this time does send a courtesy reminder one month prior to one's expiration date, it is the responsibility of each business to track its own expiration date. The expiration date of each license and registration issued is printed on the license certificate. Renewal applications should be sent 30 days prior to the expiration of your license in order to ensure that your business maintains licensure as required by the Employment Agency Law.

What happens if I do not renew my license on time?

Failure to possess and maintain a valid license is a violation of state law and continued operation may result in civil fines and criminal penalties.
Please note the following DLS policy for license renewal term dates:
‣ If your application is complete and received before the expiration date of the license term, the effective term date of the renewal will start on the existing expiration date.
‣ If your application is incomplete and received before the expiration date of the license term, then completed no later than 30 days after the expiration date, the effective term date of the renewal will start on the existing expiration date.
‣ If your application is complete and received 30 days or more after the expiration date, the effective term date will start on the date the application was received.
‣ If your application is incomplete and received 30 days or more up to 11 months after the expiration date, the effective term date will start on the date the application was completed.
‣ A complete or incomplete renewal application received 12 months or more after the expiration date is not acceptable.  An initial application must be filed, processed as a new license with a new expiration date.  Renewal applications are not acceptable for any person wishing to “renew” 12 months after the expiration of a license.

Can I apply for licensure electronically?

Unfortunately, at this time, DLS does not have this capability. Applications can be downloaded from www.mass.gov/dols/esap . You may contact DLS at 617-626-6970, if you need a copy of an application to be mailed to you. Applications are to be completed and mailed to DLS with all supporting documents.

What must I do to notify DLS if I move my business?

Mail the following items in a packet to DLS: (1) a letter on letterhead listing the former and new address and the effective date of the new address, (2) your original license certificate, (3) proof of your having filed amended corporate papers with the Secretary of the Commonwealth or an amended Business Certificate with the city or town, (4) an amended bond certificate with the new address (if applicable) and (5) a copy of your workers' compensation policy declaration page reflecting the new address. DLS will issue your business a replacement certificate reflecting the new address.

I lost my license certificate. What should I do?

Mail to DLS a letter on letterhead explaining that you lost the certificate and request the issuance of a duplicate certificate, along with a check for $50 payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

How do I obtain a license to operate a home care agency from DLS?

DLS does not license home care agencies and does not issue a home care license.

May I operate an employment agency from a home office?

Yes, provided that there is a designated area in the home for business to be conducted and a secure location for files to be stored. Massachusetts General Laws chapter 140, section 46D states that DLS shall not issue a license "if the place in which the business of the employment agency to be conducted is a room used for living purposes or where boarders or lodgers are kept or where meals are served or where persons sleep or in connection with a building or premises where intoxicating liquors are sold to be consumed on the premises, excepting cafes and restaurants in office buildings." DLS will inspect the proposed employment agency location to ensure it meets the statutory requirements. For the safety of all parties involved, it is strongly recommended that agencies do not meet with clients or applicants in their home offices, but rather, at neutral locations such as coffee shops, cafes, public meeting spaces, etc.