A recent New York Times report described instances across the country – including in Grand Rapids – of unaccompanied teenage migrants working long hours and overnight shifts at dangerous jobs in violation of child labor laws.
These practices run counter to the values of TalentFirst and its members – a stance emphasized during an online forum we convened Wednesday morning to discuss best practices to prevent the labor exploitation of underage migrants.
TalentFirst thanks the following participants for sharing their experience and expertise: Laura Schoenborn Preuss and Kacey Regan, DeWys Metal Solutions; Luke McCotter, ADAC Automotive; Janis Petrini, Express Employment Professionals; Kurt Wagner, EG Workforce Solutions; Sara Knoester, Mixed Staffing & Recuiting; Shannon Burkel, AxiosHR.
The discussion made it clear that the employer and staffing agency relationship is a business partnership in which both parties should expect to provide and require mutual transparency and accountability. Additional insights:
Best Practices in Hiring
Employers need to ensure documentation meets latest requirements and eligibility is confirmed using E-Verify. Before they interview, applicants under 18 must have work permits verifying student status, how many hours they can work, and what type of work they can do. These documentations should be confirmed in discussions with applicants.
When choosing a staffing partner, employers should remember they own the recruiting and hiring process – therefore, a staffing vendor should act as an extension of the HR department. Staffing vendors need to visit the work environment. They need to understand job requirements and go through safety trainings.
Likewise, employers should visit the staffing agency: See the systems, understand applicant tracking processes, confirm record retention policies, document how an audit would proceed.
Best Practices for Staffing Partners
Several participants in the discussion recommended membership in the American Staffing Association, which provides resources and a code of ethics.
Staffing partners should interview the client company to understand how they conduct business, while also allowing them to inspect agency practices, including going through the application process. It’s important to mutually document expectations and requirements.
Develop a set of metrics and audit them on a regular basis – this could include turnover, injuries, and other measures.
For associate client placements, staffing agencies can provide an orientation to the agency itself in addition to the client company’s orientation.
Maintain a relationship with the associate, be an advocate for them during their placement. This includes checking with frontline supervisors to ensure they know labor laws or confirm training schedules are being followed, for example.
Many migrant children who arrive in the United States unaccompanied do not have a choice about working – they need a job to repay sponsors or send money to family back home. Here are some resources available to ensure their employment is safe and within compliance:
- Bethany Christian Services provides training for employers and sponsors about workforce laws for minors, and steps to take to ensure that youth are able to work legally in safe environments. Contact Landon Mendes, firstname.lastname@example.org (616) 279-6075.
- The U.S. Department of Labor also provides resources for employers.
- Migrant Legal Aid, (616) 454-5055 or email@example.com, with a Spanish-English bilingual office is a legal resource for farm worker families.
- Michigan Immigration Rights Center (MIRC), (616) 827-4080 or firstname.lastname@example.org is a legal resource center for Michigan's immigrant communities.
- Lighthouse Immigration Advocates (LIA), (616) 298-8984 or email@example.com provides holistic case management, community education, advocacy, legal services, advocacy & education.
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services central intake provides a toll-free number for anyone, including a child, who suspects child abuse or neglect, to make a report by calling 855-444-3911.
- Wage and hour violations can be reported to the state Wage and Hour Division at 855-464-9243 (4MI-WAGE) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline takes calls in multiple languages. Phone 888-373-7888 or text 233733
Keep the Conversation Going
TalentFirst thanks the HR and staffing experts who shared their insights for this discussion. These best practices are how we continue our efforts to ensure West Michigan is a top region for talent, so that everyone here can thrive.
One way we intend to keep driving this mutual support and learning is through our recently formed HR Council. We invite you to learn more about this community of practice for West Michigan’s top-level human resources and diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders.