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 placement 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)

DLS Compliance Officers inspect the records and premises of agencies for compliance with the Employment Agency Law and Temporary Workers Right to Know Law.

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 registered placement agency?

In order to obtain a registration, 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 and register each name?

DLS registers names in locations so all business names must be registered separately. If your business operates and advertises as more than one name, you must complete one application for each name, even if it is located at the same address.

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

You must complete one application for each business name and may provide a list of addresses of branch offices where the businesses using that name are located. Be sure to include a registration application fee reflecting the $300 application fee for the main office, and $180 for each additional office location. 

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

The expiration date of each registration issued is printed on the registration certificate. Renewal applications should be sent 30 days prior to the expiration of your registration in order to ensure continuous coverage.

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

Failure to possess and maintain a valid registration is a violation of state law and continued operation may result in civil fines and criminal penalties.
Please note the following DLS policy for registration renewal term dates:
‣ If your application is complete and received before the expiration date of the registration 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 registration 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 registration with a new expiration date.  Renewal applications are not acceptable for any person wishing to “renew” 12 months after the expiration of a registration.

Can I apply for registration electronically?

Unfortunately, at this time, DLS does not have this capability. Applications can be downloaded HERE. 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 registration 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) 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 registration 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.