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Employment, placement, and staffing agency definitions and the law

The difference between the types of agencies and specific laws that apply.

Employment, Placement, and Staffing Agencies Program

If you currently licensed or registered with the Department of Labor Standards (DLS) you are considered a renewal and must apply for a renewal application not an initial application. therefore to renew your agency you must first link your existing license or registration to your ePLACE account. Follow the directions sent to you on March 29th, 2017. If you didn't receive instructions on how to link your existing agent to your ePLACE account please call DLS at (617) 626-6970.

Licensed employment agencies and registered placement agencies A list of agencies operating in Massachusetts that are licensed or registered in accordance with the law.

Link to the application website for initial or renewal license and registration

Workplace safety and health guide for staffing agencies

Information for worksite employers using agency services

Many employers rely on the services of employment, placement, and staffing agencies to help them meet short-term staffing needs or to help them find the right person for a job. If you are thinking of working with an employment, placement, or staffing agency, there are a few things that you should know:

Agencies are regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and must be either licensed or registered in accordance with the Employment Agency Law (M.G.L. c. 140, §§46A-46R) and Regulation (454 CMR 24.00). Only work with agencies that are properly licensed or registered.

Currently licensed and registered agencies are listed here: Licensed Employment Agencies and Registered Placement Agencies List

Staffing agencies and their clients (work site employers) are subject to the Temporary Workers Right to Know Law (M.G.L. c. 149, §159C), which requires that staffing agencies provide workers with certain, basic information about their work assignments, and notify workers of their rights under the Temporary Workers Right to Know Law.  The law also sets limitations on the amounts and types of fees that staffing agencies and work site employers can charge workers, and certain activities on that part of staffing agencies are prohibited by law.

Obligations of worksite employers under the Temporary Workers Right to Know Law
As discussed above, the Temporary Workers Right to Know Law prohibits staffing agencies and their clients (work site employers) from charging job applicants or workers, who are provided by staffing agencies, certain fees.These prohibited fees/charges include: The cost of registering with the staffing agency or providing the job applicant/worker with employment; drug screens, bank/debit card or other form of payment that are higher than the cost to the staffing agency/work site employer; CORI check (MA criminal record information check) as provided by the MA Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS); any good or service, unless the job applicant/worker, sent by the staffing agency to your work site, has signed a written contract that makes clear that it is voluntary and that the staffing agency/work site employer will not profit from the fee charged; any good or service that would cause the job applicant/worker to earn less than the Massachusetts minimum wage. Finally, transportation costs that: (1) are greater than the actual cost of the transportation, (2) are higher than 3% of the total daily wages, or (3) reduce the job applicant/worker’s wages below minimum wage are prohibited. Additionally, if a job applicant or worker is required to use specific transportation to get to the work site, no fees can be charged.

  • The laws regulating employment, placement, and staffing agencies do not regulate fees that employment or staffing agencies can charge to clients/worksite employers for their services.
  • Keeping temporary workers safe is a shared responsibility between agencies and worksite employers.
  • Beware of working with unscrupulous agencies engaging in illegal behavior, such as paying a worker less than the Minimum Wage, or supplying workers to you who do not have the proper licensure or certification required to perform a job.  These are illegal activities, violations of which can result in civil fines up to $15,000 or $25,000 for willful violations and will be prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division.

The Department of Labor Standards inspects the records and premises of employment, placement, and staffing agencies and investigates complaints. If you have a complaint about an agency’s business practices, please contact the Department of Labor Standards’ Employment, Placement, and Staffing Agencies Program at 617-626-6970 or file a complaint using this complaint form.

Information for worksite employers using employment, placement, or staffing agency services

Información para empleadores en el lugar de trabajo sobre contractar con agencias/empresas de trabajo temporero

Informações para empresas contratantes usando, Agências de colocação, e agências de recrutamento de pessoal

Staffing agencies and the law

Definition of a staffing agency
A “staffing agency” is defined by M.G.L. c. 149, § 159C as: “an individual, company, corporation, or partnership that procures or provides temporary or part-time employment to an individual who then works under the supervision or direction of a worksite employer.” Agencies which place or send individuals to work site employers are considered “staffing agencies” subject to the Temporary Workers Right To Know Law (TWRTKL). 

Staffing agencies must be licensed or registered with DLS
M.G.L. c. 140, sec. 46A-46R, the Employment Agency Law, mandates that agencies be either licensed or registered by DLS, as well as inspected by DLS compliance officers. This process will continue as the TWRTKL does not change the Employment Agency Law.

Information a staffing agency must provide to a job applicant or worker under the TWRTKL
The law requires staffing agencies to provide employees with notice of basic information before going to a job, such as the staffing agency’s contact information; workers’ compensation carrier; the rate of pay for the job and the designated pay day; shift start and end time; details related to any meals or transportation; whether the position requires special clothing, tools, licenses, or training; whether the job site is on strike or lockout, and the name and address of the worksite employer. Job information may be given over the telephone as long as it is confirmed in writing before the end of the first pay period. A job order form with all required information may be accessed by clicking the link above. Staffing agencies are advised that a job order form must be completed in its entirety in order to comply with the TWRTKL. 

Exceptions to the notice (job order) requirement
The notice requirement does not apply to “professionals,” “secretaries or administrative assistants.” The definition of “professionals” who are not required to be provided the notice is defined as follows: An employee as defined in 29 U.S.C. Section 152 (a). “Any applicant or worker  engaged in work (1) predominantly intellectual and varied in character as opposed to routine mental, manual, mechanical, or physical work, (2) involving the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment in its performance, (3) of such a character that the output produced or the result accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period of time, and (4) requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study in an institution of higher learning or a hospital, as distinguished from a general academic education or from an apprenticeship or from training in the performance of routine mental, manual or physical processes or any employee, who (i) has completed the courses of specialized intellectual instruction and study described in clause (4) of this subparagraph, and (ii) is performing related work under the supervision of a professional person to qualify himself to become a professional employee as defined in clauses (1) to (4) of this subparagraph.” Examples of “professional employees” include: lawyers, doctors, dentists, teachers, architects, registered nurses (but not LPNs), accountants (but not bookkeepers), engineers who have engineering degrees or the equivalent, actuaries, scientists (but not technicians), and pharmacists.

“Secretaries or administrative assistants” who are not required to be provided the notice is defined as follows:  a worker whose main or primary duties involve one or more of the following: drafting or revising correspondence, scheduling appointments, creating, organizing, and maintaining paper and electronic files and providing information to callers or visitors. 

If the information contained in the job order changes
Any changes to the terms of employment or assignment contained in the job order shall be confirmed and provided to the job applicant or worker, prior to the end of the first pay period. The staffing agency shall obtain from the job applicant or worker acknowledgement that the job applicant or worker understands and agrees to the changes. A staffing agency may satisfy the requirements of this subparagraph by having the work site employer hand the job order to the job applicant or worker. However, the staffing agency shall remain fully responsible for compliance with all job order requirements under the TWRTKL. 

Agencies can use the job order form provided by DLS or make their own form to use
Staffing agencies are advised to use the job order form provided by DLS to ensure compliance with the TWRTKL by providing legally required information to workers. However, staffing agencies may use their own form, as long as all required information under the TWRTKL is provided.

What happens if we send a job applicant/worker to a worksite but no work is available 
Staffing agencies must refund reasonable transportation costs if they send a temporary worker to a job that does not exist. This does not include the transportation costs of being sent to a worksite for a job interview.

Notices a staffing agency must post at its office locations 
Staffing agencies must post a multi-lingual notice of the workers’ rights provided under this law, as well as the DLS’ contact information in a visible location at each of its office locations, in a form provided by the DLS. The DLS notice may be obtained by downloading the poster (Notice of temporary workers’ rights under the TWRTKL). Alternatively, DLS will mail a poster to a staffing agency upon request. No substitute posting is permitted under the TWRTKL.

 TWRTKL regulates fees that a staffing agency or worksite employer may charge workers and job applicants*  
The TWRTKL prohibits a staffing agency or worksite employer from charging job applicants or workers fees for the following:

  • The cost of registering with the staffing agency or procuring employment
  • The provision of a drug screen, bank/debit card or other form of payment that exceeds the actual cost per applicant
  • A CORI request (Massachusetts criminal offender record information provided by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services)
  • All transportation costs (except those provided for below)
  • Any good or service (unless done under the terms of a written contract that makes clear that it is voluntary and for which the staffing agency will not profit from the fee charged)
  • Any good or service that would cause the applicant or employee to earn less than the minimum wage.
  • Transportation costs cannot be more than the actual cost of the transportation, exceed 3% of total daily wages, or reduce wages below minimum wage. Additionally, if specific transportation services are required, no fees can be charged.

* The employer may be prohibited from deducting, charging, or requiring the employee to incur any of the cost of these items under M.G.L. c. 149, sec.148 and 150, or other law or regulation.

The law does not regulate fees that staffing agencies can charge to clients/worksite employers for their services.

Activities that staffing agencies are not allowed to do under the TWRTK Law
Staffing agencies are prohibited from engaging in certain activities. Under the law, staffing agencies may not:

  • Knowingly provide false, fraudulent, or misleading information to job applicants or workers;
  • Use any name that they have not registered with DLS;
  • Assign or place a job applicant or worker by force, fraud, or for illegal purposes; or where the employment is in violation of state or federal laws governing minimum wage, child labor, compulsory school attendance, required licensure or certification;
  • Assign or place a job applicant or worker at any location that is on strike or lockout without notifying the employee of this fact;
  • Refuse to return personal belongings or excessive fees or charges to a job applicant or worker upon request by the worker; or
  • Retaliate against a job applicant or worker for exercising his or her rights under the TWRTKL.

Staffing agencies should maintain records of the requirements of the TWRTKL
Staffing agencies should keep the following records: 

Applicant records. Staffing agencies should maintain a separate file for each accepted job applicant or worker for placement, referral, or assignment which contains the following information:

  1. his/her name and address;
  2. dated job application, or resume;
  3. name and address of a professional or personal reference;
  4. the job order
  5. client work order listing the name and address of the work site employer to whom the staffing agency has referred, placed, or assigned the job applicant or worker;
  6. anticipated wages or rate of compensation for the client work order;
  7. anticipated duration of assignment;
  8. total fees to be paid by the job applicant to the staffing agency, if any; and
  9. transportation arrangements and related charges, if any; and
  10. other charges, if any.

Client records. Staffing agencies should maintain a separate file for each work site employer to whom job applicants or workers are referred or assigned, which should, at a minimum, contain the following information:

  1. each client’s name and address; 
  2. the date when services of the staffing agency were requested;
  3. the names of the job applicants or workers sent;
  4. the total amount of the fee received or charged to the client; and
  5. the rate of salary or wages agreed upon.                           

If you violate the TWRTK Law
Violations of this law can result in civil fines up to $15,000 or $25,000 for willful violations and will be prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division.

Questions about the TWRTK Law
For further information about the TWRTKL, interested parties may call DLS at (617) 626-6970.

Definition of employment, placement, and staffing agency

The difference between an employment agency, a placement agency, and a staffing agency

An employment agency is any person who conducts in whole or in part a business which, for a fee, procures or attempts to procure permanent or temporary help or employment or engagements, or registers persons seeking such help, employment, or engagement, or gives 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 from a job applicant or worker, or if the agency places domestic employees. A Domestic Employee is any worker who is paid directly by a household, family, or individual to perform work of a domestic nature, including, but not limited to, housekeeping, home management, nanny services, child monitoring, caretaking, laundering, cooking, home companion services, house sitting, and butler services for members of households or their guests in or about private homes. Domestic Employee does not include a person who performs services of a domestic nature as an employee of the business that places him, or a licensed medical professional, such as a medical doctor, registered or licensed practical nurse, or similarly trained and licensed individual who performs services relating to the delivery of specialized medical care. 

A placement agency is any 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: (a) employs such individuals for the purpose of furnishing part time or temporary help; or (b) does not assess job placement fees to any job applicant or worker; or (c) 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. Staffing agencies are also subject to the Temporary Workers Right to Know Law M.G.L. c. 149, sec. 159C.

Employment, placement, and staffing agency laws

454 CMR 24.00 - Employment agency and temporary workers law effective December 30, 2016

Employment agency law, M.G.L. c. 140, §§46A-46R

Temporary Workers Right to Know Law, M.G.L. c. 149, §15

Responsibility for Keeping Temporary Workers Safe

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Safety Alert – Temporary Workers

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Safety Alert – Temporary Workers (Spanish)

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Safety Alert – Temporary Workers (Portuguese)

OSHA Webinar: Protecting the Safety and Health of Temporary Workers
Webinar presented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American Staffing Association July 18,  2013 as part of OSHA’s Initiative to Protect Temporary Workers. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=SPEECHES&p_id=2974

Recommended Practices for Protecting Temporary Workers

Best practices for protecting temporary workers from NIOSH and OSHA

OSHA: Protecting Temporary Workers

OSHA Bulletin: Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Requirements – Temporary Workers

Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows fatal work injuries involving contractor worker fatalities, including temporary help service workers, accounted for 708 or 16% of the 4,383 fatal work injuries in the U.S. reported in 2012. Additional details are available at http://bls.gov/iif/home.htm.

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