There are many important things to consider when evaluating a facility services provider, from service portfolio to industry vertical expertise to investment level in technology. Another major consideration that often flies under the radar is onboarding compliance, which involves making sure employees are compliant to work in the U.S. according to local, state, and federal laws.
This issue of compliance was brought to light earlier this year when an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor discovered that more than 100 minors were found to be employed without documentation at 13 meat-processing at eight locations throughout the Midwest. In some cases, the minors were operating dangerous equipment and using hazardous chemicals. Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI), a Wisconsin-based cleaning company that supplied services to the meatpacking companies, was fined $1.5 million for the breach and lost its CEO.
As the clients of PSSI quickly found out, the consequences of labor non-compliance can be severe, not only for the provider, but also for themselves, particularly as it relates to brand reputation damage. Several of the companies who contracted with PSSI, including Tyson Foods, JBS Foods and Cargill, saw their names dragged through the national and global media for months in relation to the case, including one who was featured in a damaging “60 Minutes” segment. These companies were forced to issue press releases and statements addressing the crisis.
Beyond brand damage, organizations that contract with negligent third-party providers risk exposing themselves to further liability – such as financial penalties and loss of operating license – thanks to co-employment laws that hold both parties responsible for non-compliance. The issue is also important for those companies with active Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. The “Social” and “Governance” components of these policies often incorporate strong compliance mandates that prohibit against hiring underage workers and those without legal immigration status.
The best way to feel confident that labor from an outsourced provider is compliant in every way is to understand how the provider actively ensures onboarding compliance at scale. Here are three things to look for when it comes to assessing how a facility services provider hires direct employees, including details on KBS’ rigorous process.
1. Thorough Onboarding Process
Proper compliance begins with a multi-tiered onboarding process that includes a thorough background check, drug screening, employment eligibility verification, and completion of new-hire paperwork. Because facility service roles like janitorial cleaning are associated with large volumes of applicants, an elevated level of organization and process standardization is essential, said Valerie Amick, Sr. Director of HR Compliance for KBS.
“Staffing a national labor force with quality candidates requires a highly scalable, end-to-end process so KBS and our clients are protected,” Amick said. “Our compliance process is borne from decades of experience, a deep understanding of employment law and ever-evolving regulations, and a strong investment in technology and innovation.”
A key part of the onboarding process is employment eligibility, verified by Form I-9 and web-based systems like E-Verify, an official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that validates employment identification within seconds. Although only 22 states require E-Verify, KBS still uses the process for every candidate in all 50 states as part of its compliance methodology to ensure maximum compliance. Florida will be the newest state to require the process beginning July 1, 2023.
2. Dedicated HR Compliance Team
Another key piece to ensuring compliance is staffing a knowledgeable and dedicated team to work on every facet of the onboarding process. The HR Compliance Team at KBS is comprised of highly qualified specialists and auditors who are responsible for key pieces of the process, from reviewing new hire onboarding files, to managing the E-Verify process, to completing ongoing internal audits.
These administrative tasks act as a front-line defense against non-compliance and assist in catching mistakes or discrepancies before they become costly problems. After an employee has cleared the onboarding process and is approved to work, the HR Compliance Team continuously monitors the status of work authorizations and eligibility documents using an automated system that alerts team members of document expiration dates. This helps avoid lapses in compliance.
Another core responsibility of the HR Compliance Team is staying abreast of government labor rules and regulations. Keeping track of ongoing changes across local, state, and federal jurisdictions can be a headache, which is why partnering with an outsourced provider who prioritizes compliance can be so beneficial.
3. Secure & Efficient Digital Processes
A third key to ensuring proper workforce compliance is making the right investments in digital technology and platforms that enable the automation of routine processes and procedures. For example, KBS field managers are able to leverage KBS’ proprietary software application, called KBSForce, to securely and efficiently onboard new employees on site. The software provides instant access to all necessary onboarding documentation, and includes electronic signature functionality, which helps to ensure efficient completion of all paperwork. This helps streamline the hiring and compliance process considerably.
“We are almost completely paperless,” Amick said. “The hiring process begins in KBSForce, where the field manager can assist the employee with completing their onboarding file from start to finish. These electronic files eliminate many of the onboarding issues that we encountered using traditional paper forms. Our auditing teams are also paperless, using consistent forms and practices for quality control.”
When it comes to evaluating a facility services provider, a strong onboarding compliance program should be one of the most important considerations. The consequences of non-compliance can be severe, which is why KBS has invested so many resources in this area over the years. This pro-active approach enables us to safeguard the integrity of our own operations and our brand reputation, as well as those of our clients.