Contingent Staffing: Can an independent contractor or a consultant manage company employees

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From Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) —

“Allowing independent contractors or consultants to manage company employees is not for frugal or risk-adverse employers and is generally not a recommended practice.

Independent contractors or consultants are often hired for their specialized expertise. The intention is that the relationship will be short-term and focused on providing services that existing organizational employees are unable to provide.

Furthermore, independent contractors and consultants are usually engaged using consulting agreements or contracts, which outline the services they will provide, the manner and means for providing these services, and the expected results. Consultants and independent contractors are bound by the terms of their consulting agreement or contract, not by the organization’s personnel policies, employee handbook or employment-at-will doctrine.

Managing employees, on the other hand, typically involves overseeing and enforcing the organization’s personnel policies and procedures. Educating and coaching employees on how to adhere to the company’s personnel policies and procedures, culture and values through orientation and other types of training is usually a management responsibility.  [emphasis added]

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4 thoughts on “Contingent Staffing: Can an independent contractor or a consultant manage company employees

  1. Mr. Gibson,

    I would like to find out – Can an independent contractor or a consultant manage another temporary worker or contractor?

    1. Thanks for your question. It is possible for an independent contractor or consultant to manage another temporary worker or contractor but it depends on the circumstances. For example, suppose you hire an independent contractor to do the landscaping for your house and you hire a gardener for your garden. The landscaper might direct and manage the gardener on a temporary basis. It is harder for a business to bring in a consultant to manage its temporary workers because the activity of managing workers is part of the business’s regular course of business. Many states will look at how much the independent contractor’s work is part of the regular course of business of the company.

  2. I recently started a job in California at a company as their commercial sales rep. When I interviewed with the company there was two people interviewing me one named Bill who was the owner of the company and Brent who I also thought was the owner or partner in the company. Brent conducted the majority of the interview and asked me all the questions and Bill sort of just sat there with not as much input as Brent. After getting hired I found out that Brent wasn’t even an employee of the company he is a subcontractor that Bill hired to help him with the new sales role I filled. The first week I was there Bill had me meet with Brent alone and we had an hour meeting where he was acting like he was my manager telling me what I had to do and how I was going to do it. Keep in mind I have been in professional sales for 20 years now and am capable of performing this role without supervision and thought that was what this job was before getting hired. The second week on the job Brent started emailing me with updates about how he was monitoring my crm activity and was again trying to micromanage me and was writing emails with a list of things that he wanted me to follow and do. I met with Bill the owner and told asked him is Brent an employee of this company and is he my manager because it appears he is trying to micromanage me? He told me he would contact him and have him back off I told him I am more than capable and if you don’t like my results in 90 days I will fire myself. The third week went by and towards the end of the week Brent started emailing me again with updates how he was logging into my crm montoring what I was doing, how he wanted me to call him, he tried to set a zoom call now he set a meeting for this Friday. I called Bill again today and he turned on me saying if you don’t like the way we work here you can just leave the company. I asked him again who is Brent? is he my manager isnt he a sub contractor you hired? He said “it doesnt matter, you do what he says and or you can leave”.

    After all of this I now feel like I may get fired because I am not wanting to be micromanaged by a sub contractor. My question is can a company do this legally? What grounds do I have to stand on incase Bill tries to fire me now?

    1. Chad – I am sorry to hear about your situation. Based on the information you have provided, it certainly is possible that Brent should be classified as an employee and not an independent contractor/subcontractor. I’m sorry to say that even it that were true, it would Brent’s claim to make and not yours and I don’t think it materially helps your current situation. I sounds like you should consult an attorney who is well versed in California employment law. I wish I had a better response. Good luck to youl

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