“I need someone out here first thing Monday morning,” your client tells you. It’s Friday afternoon, and you’re getting ready for the weekend. This is a client your firm has had for a while now, but this time you don’t have someone already lined up. You search your list of available associates and just can’t find someone to fill the need. You spend the final hour of work on Friday scanning applications to see if there is anyone who has applied who might be a good fit. You find someone with the right experience, do a quick telephone interview and everything is set for this new temporary associate to appear for work on Monday morning.
Everything seems to be working out well until the unforeseen happens.
True Story: A welding company needed a skilled welder to construct facemasks for an order of football helmets. During the course of the day, the man was carrying 40 facemasks from one place to another. Along the way, he walked over a debris-covered board – a dangerous but unfortunately all-too-common situation in many manufacturing environments. He failed to see the board and slipped. On the way down, he twisted his lower back.
He reported the accident immediately, but continued working and was able to finish his shift that day. The next morning, he reported severe back pain. The temporary associate attempted to return to work the next day in a light duty role, but found himself unable to proceed.
He saw a physician, who diagnosed a back sprain and also diagnosed him with morbid obesity. He weighed in at 362 pounds at the time of his initial examination. Furthermore, he was a heavy smoker, admitting that he smoked one pack of cigarettes per day.
The physician determined that the claimant required surgery. However, he was not confident that the surgery would go as planned unless the patient lost weight first. The doctor ordered a clinical weight loss program before the surgery could be performed. The staffing company and its insurer not only had to pay the cost of the clinical weight loss program, but also were required to pay indemnity wages the entire time this employee was losing weight. As a result, the workers’ compensation bill shot up from what should have been a $100,000 claim to well over $300,000.
This entire situation could have turned out very differently (and possibly avoided altogether) had the temporary agency matched the employee with the job. The placement of an associate who was a morbidly obese smoker in a physically demanding job was the perfect recipe for an expensive claim.
The temporary agency failed to interview the man in person before he was sent to the client site. Had they seen him in person before they assigned him to the client, they would have noted his weight, coupled with his smoking habit, and would have had the opportunity to choose a more physically able associate who was a better match for this particular job.
Pro Tip: Always interview your associates in person before you dispatch them to work for a client. This is the only way that you can effectively match the employee with the job.
Although you are prohibited from discriminating against protected classes (race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, and national origin), you must be selective in your hiring process based on the requirements of the job. Know the individual you are sending to a client before you send him or her. If you feel there is a health risk involved, select someone who is just as capable but poses a lower risk.
In this case, the claim may have been inevitable. However, had the temporary agency been more selective in its placement, it could have cost $200,000 less.