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Labor Law Compliance
January 26, 2004
Richard A. Leasia
Labor and Employment Department,
Thelen Reid & Priest, LLP
To Buy Janitorial Services
At the end of the day, your employees leave behind
evidence of their hard work. You're proud of their
accomplishments. You're also alarmed at the mess
such production can create, even if it's only waste
paper and lunch room garbage. You're much too busy
to clean it up yourself and you can hardly expect
your employees to take out the trash. It's time
to hire a janitorial service.
While many commercial janitorial firms specialize
in housekeeping and sanitation, a number of companies
offer the whole palette of cleaning services: interior
cleaning, floor stripping and waxing, windows inside
and out, construction site cleanup, restaurant cleaning,
pressure-washing for warehouse floors, furniture
care, health care sanitizing, HVAC maintenance,
houseplant care, trash removal and more.
Most commercial firms also offer one-time services
for such needs as fire, smoke or water damage restoration,
or move-in/move-out cleaning. Some can also stock
your shelves with cleaning supplies and paper products.
When you're ready to start shopping for janitorial
service, look for a firm that will design a cleaning
program and schedule to meet your needs. There are
scores of janitorial firms competing for business,
so you have the luxury of taking in proposals and
choosing the one that offers the best package at
the most reasonable cost. It is advised however,
that you narrow down your search to between 3 and
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN BUYING
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHECKING REFERENCES
- How long has the janitorial company been in
- What is their service territory?
- Do they offer both day and night service?
24/7 availability? Emergency service?
- Are they licensed, bonded and insured? Will
they provide a copy of their insurance certificate?
- Do they use their own employees to do the
- Do they use sub-contractors and if so for
- Can they provide a client list and references?
- What kind of guarantee do they offer?
- Can they give you an estimate over the phone?
- Are their on-site estimates free?
- Do they estimate based on square footage?
- Do they estimate on tasks completed?
- What kind of term contracts do they offer?
- Do they offer packages with special rates?
- How large is their work force? Will a dedicated
janitorial person or team be assigned to your
- How are their personnel screened and selected?
Do they receive training?
- Do they offer hands-on supervision on large
projects? How about regularly scheduled inspections
of the work performed?
- What kind of billing schedule do they follow?
FACTORS THAT IMPACT COST
- How does the janitorial company respond to
- Do you find you have the same problems with
the janitorial company?
- Have you ever had to call them for emergency
- Can you reach them after hours?
- How do they handle breakage and theft?
- Some commercial janitorial firms offer services
beyond the usual cleanup and floor care. If
you're also in the market for dust control for
your "sealed-room" lab, maintenance for your
landscaped grounds, or even copy/mail services,
look for a firm that also offers such services.
You'll save money on a package deal.
- If they offer supply products, get a proposal.
Most firms look at overall profitability and
buying supplies will keep down your service
cost overall. You will also save time and money
on ordering and stocking since most firms will
do this for you.
- If you're willing to sign an annual contract,
you'll likely get a discounted rate. Make sure
there's a termination clause so you can opt
out if you're dissatisfied with the quality
of the work. More and more firms are starting
to eliminate annual contracts and going month
to month. Unless your facility is large do not
be surprised if they do not offer this option.
- If you're facility is small, you may want
totalk to your neighbor to see if you can negotiate
a deal together with a janitorial firm.
HOW THE IRS DETERMINES WORKER STATUS
- Because some clients have several locations,
some janitorial companies use subcontractors
to fulfill their agreements. Subcontracting
work is fine for large corporations such as
banks, but for a small business such as yours,
you want to have a one-to-one relationship with
the people providing service to you. Keep this
in mind also if you are negotiating with a broker.
- Make sure that any sub-contractors used are
an actual company that does janitorial services
and not a "mom & pop" type outfit. Some state
laws do not consider individual persons that
are paid on a 1099 form as a legal sub-contractor.
This means you could end up being responsible
for income taxes not withheld for these individuals.
(See "How the IRS determines worker status"
in this article.) It also means they probably
do not have workers compensation insurance.
- Most janitorial companies refuse "no-key"
accounts, with good reason. Arriving at a job
site to find no one there is frustrating for
the cleaner and can be costly for you. If you
feel you can't trust a janitorial company with
a set of keys, get a referral from another business
owner so you can use a company you trust. Further
incentive: no-key accounts will cost you more
in basic services.
- Fidelity bonds are only good upon an arrest
and conviction, so make sure the janitorial
firm has liability insurance. Always request
a certificate of insurance and in some situations
you may want to be listed as "additionally insured"
on the janitorial firms insurance.
The IRS uses three determining factors for clarifying
whether a worker qualifies as an employee or an
Things like instructions that the company provides
the worker such as when, where and how to work,
does the company control the results and provide
training? Independent contractors ordinarily use
their own methods.
Independent contractors are more likely to have
un-reimbursed expenses. Does the worker have an
invested interest? Independent contractors ordinarily
have a financial investment. Does the worker make
other services available relevant to the market
or is he just a janitor? Does overtime get paid
for additional hours worked or is he paid a flat
Type of relationship:
Independent contractors are more likely to have
contracts, terms for length of job, no benefits
and do work for other companies of a relevant nature.
If all of the workers jobs are provided by one janitorial
firm, he is an employee not a independent contractor.
GOOD SERVICE DOESN'T JUST HAPPEN:
A good way to protect your self from companies that
use illegal subcontractors is to do some simple
math. If the janitorial service does not already
provide in their proposal the amount of hours spent
cleaning your facility, ask them. Now take this
information and divide it into the lump sum they
have provided in their proposal and see if it adds
up. Operating a dependable service business requires
organization, competent management and a substantial
capital investment. So don't judge service charges
solely by the time spent cleaning your facility.
When a professional janitorial service goes to work
in your facility, many costs have been incurred
just to get him there ready to do the job. Here
are some of them:
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
- Special tools and equipment
- Sales and Estimators
- Stock of supplies
- Supervision and Management
- Wages and Overtime
- Equipment maintenance
- Vehicle fuel and maintenance
- Stationery and supplies
- Office rent and Utilities
- Holiday pay
A written presentation submitted with the goal of
securing an account, outlining the work to be performed,
the cost, the time it will take and other details
to support the investment.
Having a fidelity bond that covers each employee,
to protect a company against loss or damage due
to dishonest acts.
Certificate of insurance:
Proof of liability, workers compensation and bond
insurance mailed to you directly from the insurance
HVAC: The combined
heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems
in a building.
Service that secures and sells janitorial accounts,
basically serving as an agent matching customer
to janitorial company.
Through: Appointment with janitorial firm
to walk and view facility for proposal or inspection.
RFP: Request for proposal.
Specs./Specifications: Tasks to
be performed by janitorial firm.
An individual or company hired by a larger company
or contractor to perform services for the larger
Industry accepted times to perform certain tasks
in the janitorial field.