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Message #804 Private employment, job listing and counseling

mp3 #804 Private Employment Job Listing and Employment Counseling (mp3 file)

At any given time thousands of Californians are looking for a job. One way to find a job is through a private employment agency. These agencies are supposed to provide employment to meet your needs and specifications in a fairly short period of time, in exchange for a fee (a fee which is either paid by you, or your employer, or shared).

But not everyone who goes to an employment agency finds a job. Some people, in fact, find trouble. It may be because you can't obtain a refund of your fee if your job doesn't work out, or you didn't understand the contract you signed, or you read an ad which later turned out to be misleading.

If you are looking for a job, you might consider some alternatives to private employment agencies, alternatives which may provide you with the same services at much less cost:

The state employment development department lists job openings and fills these vacancies free of charge to both the employer and employee. These offices can usually provide job guidance and occupational testing, too. Look in your telephone directory under "California, state of."

The U.S. civil service commission and state and local commissions have listings for government jobs, which are not normally listed with private employment agencies nor advertised in the want ads. The commission runs job information centers, which are not hiring centers but they can send you job applications, information brochures, and filing instructions, as well as tell you what individual government offices do the hiring.

Look in the telephone directory under government offices--"civil service commission," or personnel department.

Your high school or college placement office usually offers free placement help to its graduates. Counselors can offer you career counseling, advise you on the job market for your skill, arrange interviews or introductions to employers, and possibly arrange for testing.

Unions, trade, and professional associations that represent the job field you're interested in can sometimes offer help. Many keep job banks of openings in their industry or run referral services. In addition, their magazines or newsletters may carry help-wanted ads, and be a place where you can run your situation-wanted ad.

Special interest organizations and programs assist specific types of job seekers. Look in your telephone directory under "employment service" -- government, company, fraternal, etc.

However, if you decide to use a private employment agency, shop around. Private employment agencies often provide counseling services free of charge, whether or not they place you in a job, although the quality of this counseling varies. Find out how much the employment agency's fees are, and what services and kinds of jobs are offered.

Make sure the agency is bonded. The agency is required to maintain a bond in favor of and payable to the people of the state of California, or a cash deposit with the secretary of state.

Some of the larger agencies perform executive search functions (finding candidates for specific jobs in top executive positions) in addition to routine job placement.

Be careful if you are seeking employment counseling. Professional employment counseling firms combine resume writing with psychological and aptitude testing, and personal guidance, but they may charge $3,000 or more. And they still can't promise a job.

Some employment agencies handle temporary employment, while others handle permanent employment. Some handle both. If it matters which type of employment you get, find out what the employment agency handles before you sign anything.

Watch out for ads offering jobs which do not exist, or which make a position sound deceptively appealing. If you feel you are a victim of an intentionally misleading ad, contact your local district attorney's office.

The majority of employment agencies require the applicant to pay the fees. When you go into an applicant-paid fee employment agency, you should be given a copy of the fee schedule (which tells how much you have to pay with a certain job or salary range). How the fee is paid depends on the employment agency, the type of job, and the employer. Some other agencies don't have you pay anything until after you are employed. Here are some other things to consider:

An employment agency will set up a meeting between you and an employer. You never have to pay any agency unless the employer offers and you accept a job. However, some agencies may require a deposit on a fee, prior to your going on a job interview. If you don't get the job, the employment agency, upon demand (which must be in writing), must repay the deposit within 48 hours or be liable to you for double the amount of the deposit.

Ask the agency representative about the fee arrangement before going on an interview. Sometimes employers pay all of the agency fee, sometimes you do, or the two of you may split the fee. In other cases, the employer will reimburse all or part of the fee you paid if you prove satisfactory for an agreed period of time.

If the position is advertised or represented as "fee paid" or "no fee," the employer has agreed to pay the entire agency fee and you have no fee obligation. Since some employers do not pay fees on their jobs, you should confirm the fee status with the employer before you accept a job.

You will be advised of the exact amount of the fee due for each job to which you are referred. This fee is entered on the referral contract you sign before going on an interview. You will also be advised of other contract provisions, if you later lose the job.

You should first look over the contract.

The biggest problem consumers have with private employment agencies is understanding the written contracts. To cut down problems, California law requires that if any agency charges you a fee, your written contract with the employment agency must contain the following items:

1. The name, address, and telephone number of the employment agency. If the employment agency has more than one office, if must contain the name, address and telephone number of the principal office serving you.

2. The name and address of the person giving the order for help, the date and number of the job order, and the way the order was received.

3. The date and number of the contract you receive.

4. Your name and the name and address of the person to whom you are being sent for employment, and the address where you are to report for employment.

5. The amount of the fee to be charged and collected from you, including a statement that if your job is terminated, your fee may not be more than your gross earnings in the job. The contract must also state the amount to be paid by your employer.

6. The kind of job for which you are applying (such as secretarial).

7. The daily hours of work, and the salary including any benefits (such as insurance and retirement plans), and any other conditions of employment.

8. If any labor trouble exists at the place of employment, that fact shall be stated in the contract.

9. A contract expiration date not more than 180 days from the date of the referral or signing of the contract, whichever occurs first.

10. Any other terms, conditions, or understanding you and the agency agreed upon.

11. An agreement to repay your fee to you, if you don't find a job, or if you leave your job for just cause, or are fired for reasons other than misconduct connected with your work, within 90 days of the date you start working.

Before signing on the dotted line ....

1. If you can't understand something in the contract, consult legal aid or the consumer affairs information line.

2. Don't be swayed by scare tactics such as warnings about how tight the job market is or suggestions that, with your limited skills and talents, you're lucky to get any job.

3. Discuss how you will pay the fee before accepting employment, and make sure that arrangements for installment payments are in writing.

4. Be sure you understand your obligations, if any, if you quit the job.

5. Before accepting employment, find out all you can about the job from the employer. The agency counselor will tell you about the job, but the employer is the real and final authority. Ask about duties, hours of work, and salary (versus commission). Understand the company's policy (if it has one) about paying back the employment agency's fee.

Important tip: agency fees, charges, and all direct costs of job hunting may be deductible on federal income tax, if you take a job in your own field. Check with the internal revenue service and keep accurate records of your expenses, such as agency fees and charges.

If, within 90 days, you quit with "just cause," or are fired or laid off through no fault of your own from a job obtained through an agency, the agency's fee shall be reduced to the fee for temporary employment. You should receive a partial fee refund for any fee paid in excess of that amount. This refund is 1/90th of the permanent fee, multiplied by the number of calendar days still remaining until 90 days are up.

The fee arrangement where a commission is involved may be different.

A refund, when due, must be made within 10 working days after you request it in writing. If not made within 10 working days, an additional refund is owed. If you do not get a job at all, your fee must be refunded within two days after you request a refund.

If an employment agency sends you for an interview for one position, but you accept employment with the same employer in a different position, the employment agency is still entitled to a fee, as long as you accept the position within 180 days of the date of the referral. The expiration date shall be stated in the contract.

Another type of job-finding agency is called a "job listing service." You may cancel your contract within three business days after you sign your contract.

If you have paid an advance fee to a job listing service, and have not received three bona fide employment opportunities by the end of a seven-day period (after you sign your contact), you have the right to request a full refund of your fee. Your refund must be made within 10 days of your request; if it is not paid within ten days, you are entitled to receive a double refund. And if you have not obtained a job before the 90-day expiration date of your contract, you are entitled to a refund of any amount that you paid, after the first $25.00. Also, if your job lasts less than 90 days, any amount paid in fees or deposits in excess of a $25.00 service charge shall be refunded to you. The refund must be paid to you within ten days after you make your request. Your right to these refunds must be included in your written contract.

Another type of private agency is called an "employment counseling service." These agencies, for a fee, offer career counseling, vocational guidance, aptitude testing, executive consulting, personnel consulting, career management/evaluation/or planning, and the development of resumes and other promotional materials relating to preparation for employment. It does not provide job placement or job listing services, however. If you sign a contract with an employment counseling service, you may cancel it within three business days after you sign it. The service must provide you a written fee schedule, stating its maximum charges for all services it offers.

If difficulties arise, first discuss them with the agency's owner or manager. If you still need help, contact the state department of consumer affairs information line: area code (916) 445-1254.

The department of consumer affairs may be able to mediate your complaint, or refer you to a local authority for investigation.

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