Provided by: Jennifer Kirschenbaum, Esq.
January 11, 2018
I signed a contract with a staffing agency that includes a $38,000 placement fee if I transfer as full time to a site the agency has placed me. Well, I was placed at a hospital, and the hospital is kicking out the staffing agency (and me) unless I sign a direct employment agreement. What are my options? Can I sign with the hospital and hold my breadth no one will come knocking for the $38,000? The Hospital refuses to pay it for me.
Without reviewing the actual staffing contract, my comments are purely speculative. Having reviewed many staffing contracts and being familiar with the space, I will tell you it is likely what you have signed creates a legally binding obligation, likely enforceable, whether against you or the prospective employer, or both. A couple of steps I suggest, whether with the help of counsel (recommended) or not -
1. engage the staffing agency to negotiate a lower fee and comply with the contract;
2. disclose the obligation to the prospective employer - it is likely your new employment agreement which should also be reviewed prior to signing - contains a clause stating you represent you are not a party to any contractual obligation that conflicts with you signing (not the case with this staffing contract hanging over your head...); and/or
3. request the prospective employer negotiate on your behalf or pay the placement fee.
The option you floated - stick your head in the sand and pretend the staffing contract doesn't exist is - to say the least - ill-advised. As you get closer to wrapping up signing your new contract with the hospital, I doubt the hospital will take you with the risk of suit over your's and the hospital's heads (hospital may be targeted with tortious interference of contract claim). You may be jeopardizing not just money by inviting a lawsuit, but your position at the hospital, and employ-ability in general by risking removal the hospital if things go south.
The best way to avoid this type of situation - being held hostage - is to negotiate on the way in when you may have some leverage, not on the way out when you have none.