Worried about confidentiality with an employment agency? Here’s how to handle it

Question:

I’m stuck in a dead-end job but don’t have time to spend searching the want ads. I thought I’d accelerate my chances of new job by letting an employment agency search for me.

When I filled out the agency’s intake form, however, the worker pulled me aside and let me know they have a contract with my employer that requires the agency to notify them if one of their employees signs up for job-seeking services.

Is this even legal? I’m guessing that if my employer finds out, I’ll be fired by the end of the day, and I’ve heard this has happened to others who used to work for my company. I don’t know what to do. My employer uses every employment agency in Anchorage, so am I out of luck? If they all have this contract, I won’t be able to sign up with any agency without risking being fired. In a small town like Anchorage, this stacks the deck against the worker.

Answer:

After receiving your email, I called an employment agency and asked if they had any contracts requiring them to call a job seeker’s employer. This agency said “no.”

Here’s what I suggest. Call all the employment agencies listed, and find out which ones have the type of contract you ran into and which don’t. Any agency with this type of contract should do what this agency did, and tell you up front that they have a conflict of interest. If they don’t, and then blow the whistle on you, they could be guilty of misrepresentation if their advertisements encourage job seekers to come to them for placement assistance and they instead report job seekers to their employers.

You’re not out of luck; you just need to find a different agency.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com

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