In every industry, there are a few companies that use morally questionable business practices. The janitorial industry is no exception. In fact, unethical or illegal business practices can be quite common in the janitorial industry. The most common such practice is treating employees as independent contractors to save money on taxes. Not only can this be illegal, but it often results in the exploitation of workers, particularly immigrants.
An example of such illegal and exploitative activity happened in Washington, DC in 2022. According to the DC Attorney General’s website, Jan-Pro was “operating a multilevel franchising scheme that misclassifies janitorial employees as independent contractors. Jan-Pro lured District janitors to sign “franchise agreements” with promises of financial independence and entrepreneurial success. In reality, however, janitors function as Jan-Pro’s employees – and through being misclassified, are denied hard-earned wages and paid sick leave they are entitled to under District law.”
If the cleaning company exercises substantial control over the working conditions, working methods, and rate of pay of the workers, they are legally considered employees and not independent contractors. By illegally misclassifying workers as independent contractors, JanPro was able to avoid certain employer taxes and unlawfully force the workers to bear that financial burden. In reality, many of the workers were earning less than minimum wage.
Why having a legal and ethical cleaning company matters
If you happen to contract with a janitorial company that uses such practices, there could be several consequences to your company. First, if a public lawsuit happens, and particularly if workers were mistreated, your company could face reputational issues. Second, if a lawsuit happens, you run the risk of your cleaning vendor quitting without notice, putting you in a bind. Third, if workers make less than minimum wage, this could pressure them to get the work done faster, resulting in poor quality. Finally, if you are reading this article, you most likely care about ethical work practices and desire that even from your vendors.
Should you hire a cleaning company that uses independent contractors?
The answer is: “It depends.” There is a legal and ethical way for a janitorial company to use independent contractors. So it is possible to find such a company and benefit from their services. However, these companies cannot direct the work or dictate the cleaning methods, limiting their ability to make changes. If you are in the bidding process and learn that a vendor using independent contracts, inquire very thoroughly into their business practices to ensure they are operating legally and ethically.
A safer bet is to partner with a company that hires its own employees, oversees and manages the work, and cares for those employees as a top priority. If this is what you are looking for, we are here to help.