It’s the most wonderful time of the year for contractors too!

Alright, so in keeping with my holiday party theme started last time, I figured I would throw another one out there that y’all may either not know about or not fully understand – contractors and company events situation. So everyone starts talking about the upcoming Christmas Party, and how much fun it is going to be, and there is Carl the Contractor, sitting in his cube punching away at his spreadsheet. You start to ask him if he is coming then you remember the verbiage at the bottom of the email from HR: “This company sponsored event is for regular, full-time employees of the company. Contractors are not eligible to attend.”

Uh, awkward.

This can be especially difficult with contractors that you develop close ties with, who you feel are just as much your co-worker as, well your co-workers. In fact, you may like them more than your co-workers.

And there is your answer.

Let’s go back to Carl the Contractor. He’s is a good guy, does his work, is accurate, comes in on time and never overcooks his fish in the microwave (unlike Patty in Purchasing…) You like him, and don’t think of him any differently than any of your co-workers. Then one day Carl gets it in his head that he is being done wrong in one way or another, and decides to call up Larry the Lawyer. Since he is a contractor, the company doesn’t have much to worry about, at least not in this particular situation, because whatever burr he has under his saddle is employment related. He can take it up with his employer – the staffing agency. But there is a concept called dual employment, which is where Carl says: “sure, I am paid by ABC Staffing, but my real employer is ACME Widgets.“ If you haven’t guessed yet, ACME Widgets is you… When asked what proof he has, among other things, he ticks off that he goes to all company sponsored events. Of course if that is his only example, I would venture to guess that he is probably not going to have much of a leg to stand on, but it can at the minimum be a foothold or worse, it can be added to a small, but growing, list of things that can add to the perception that they are in fact an employee of the company (how long he has worked for you, for instance).

The thing you need to do is establish clear guidelines separating employees from contractors, which would include company-sponsored, extra-curricular events. These are things that are done for the benefit of the company’s employees. By inviting contractors you are blurring that line, and that can lead to trouble.

Does this mean that you have to exclude them from everything?  Not necessarily. The thing to look for is whether the company is providing some type of assistance to the event.  Be it catering, or prizes, or paying the contractor to attend the event, I would think long and hard on those situations.  Going out as a group after work, for instance?  I don’t see an issue there as long as no one expenses it or puts it on their corporate credit card.  Of course, as with anything I say, it is best to talk with your own HR peeps.  Most of the time they don’t bite.  Most of the time.

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