In 1979, my sister and I watched a kids’ movie called C.H.O.M.P.S., a “comic science fiction family film” (according to Wikipedia), which featured a Benji-lookalike border terrier named CHOMPS. Except the dog wasn’t really a terrier, and wasn’t even really a dog.
C.H.O.M.P.S. was an acronym for Canine Home Protection System, and the terrier was a robot [insert plot of every children’s movie here] invented by a brilliant kid, who then outsmarts bumbling adults who try to kidnap the dog but prove inept and not nearly as clever as our young hero.
The movie scores an abysmal 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and I don’t remember much about it, except that my sister and I still talk about it.
Although we’re all grown up now, we’re still overrun with acronyms. Two acronyms often appear in the context of retaining contingent labor, and if your company makes frequent use of temp staffing or other contingent workers, these may be good to know.
First, there’s MSP. An MSP is a Managed Service Provider. MSPs can manage many different things, but in the context of employment law and the contingent workforce, they can manage temporary staffing needs for a business. Generally, they will contract directly with multiple staffing agencies and taking the laboring oar in overseeing those relationships. MSPs can also identify and retain independent contractors. They will monitor spend and can produce all sorts of nifty reports. If your business uses an MSP, then when you need temp labor or other contingent workers, you tell the MSP what you’re looking for, and the MSP does the rest.
Next, there’s VMS. VMS stands for Vendor Management System. It is an online portal through which contingent workforce staffing needs can be arranged and managed. MSPs generally use VMSs, but a company can also use a VMS without an MSP.
When beginning a relationship with an MSP, sophisticated businesses will take a hand-on approach in negotiating the terms of service with the MSP, as well as negotiating (or providing) the form agreements that the MSP will enter into with staffing agencies and independent contractors. Your company is not a direct party to those agreements but, rather, is a third party beneficiary.
Those staffing agency agreements should generally include the same protections against joint employer liability that you’d include if you contracted with the staffing agency directly. Click here for Ten Things That Should Be in your Staffing Agency Agreements But Probably Aren’t.
You’ll also probably want all contingent workers retained through the MSP to sign arbitration agreements with classs action waivers, as well as individual agreements addressing the protection of your confidential information and ownership of any IP created during the assignment.
Bonus tip: Be careful not to say that all deliverables are “works made for hire.” Under some laws, including in California, declaring deliverables to be “works made for hire” automatically converts the relationship into employment. Bummer. Use assignment instead. You can read more about that topic here.
For companies that make frequent use of contingent labor, MSPs and VMSs can save a lot of time and aggravation. When engaging MSPs, it’s worth the up-front investment to renegotiate and modify the template agreements that the MSP will use on your company’s behalf.
If you’re later alleged to be a direct or joint employer of the contingent workers, well-drafted agreements will provide vital home protection — even better than you could get from C.H.O.M.P.S.
Bonus Fun Fact: Red Buttons was in this movie. It’s fun to say Red Buttons. Try it. Really. Say it aloud. But say it quietly in case someone is listening. You’ll like it and will probably keep saying it quietly to yourself all day, with a slight smile, because no one else is in on your little secret.
© 2023 Todd Lebowitz, posted on WhoIsMyEmployee.com, Exploring Issues of Independent Contractor Misclassification and Joint Employment. All rights reserved.