THE (UNFORTUNATE) STORY OF 180 PERSONNEL
...And how I came to become the voice of TempWorks' victims
David Stemm, Owner
Principle Personnel Group
LinkedIn articles that I have written about TempWorks
My story probably started out no differently than most other stories about start-ups. After many years in the staffing business I decided I wanted to open my own staffing agency. As all start-ups do, I needed everything! I was looking for a factoring company to provide invoice factoring, a payroll company to provide payroll services and overall payroll solutions and work comp insurance. I was in a very fortunate situation - personally and professionally - that allowed me to follow that dream. I initially started the process in late 2012, but one birth, two house moves and an impending birth later things were on hold. They were on hold, that is, until a great situation presented itself for my vision to take off immediately with guaranteed success! I had to be up and running quickly. I originally had chosen TempWorks for my website build and their software. When I reached out to them to explain my situation and opportunity, they were only too happy to offer me their complete line of services, including:
Website linked to Software w/ client & applicant portals, online time and attendance, etc.
Employer of Record Services (tax reporting & withholding, work comp insurance, unemployment insurance, etc.)
In short, TempWorks Management Services 'was' my business. I was merely an agent of TempWorks, acting on their behalf. Being in the industry, I knew why the arrangement had to be structured that way. Having been handed off by Executive VP Casey Kraus to my primary contact Bob Pugliano, it was explained to me that TempWorks had "many" clients in Indiana operating under the very agreement that we were contemplating for 180 Personnel. (Of course I now know, with the benefit of the discovery phase of litigation, that was a lie. At the time I was in contact with Bob Pugliano, they had no current clients in Indiana operating under that agreement, and had only one several years earlier.)
After an exhaustive onboarding process with Ashlee Brace and our software trainers, we were all ready to go live. The first 180 Personnel candidates were being presented for hire on Monday, September 30th, 2013. On the previous Monday, I asked TempWorks for a certificate of insurance that I could provide my clients for their records. Anyone who has been in staffing for more than a week knows how fundamental that and how easily it is produced. I was told that I couldn't get it on Monday, but that the codes were being bound as of Tuesday. No problem.
On Tuesday I had to contact TempWorks vendor, Direct HR, for questions about candidate approval. After questions going unanswered on Tuesday, I called my contact at Direct HR - the contact I had been given by Ashlee Brace - to ask him about the process. He seemed to be surprised that I - as a Temporary agency - was doing business with TempWorks in Indiana. He told me that it was "going to be a problem" for me to do business in Indiana. I was confused, given the commonality of my arrangement with them in Indiana, according to Bob. Bob assured me it was a simple misunderstanding and that he would have it all cleared up within a matter of moments.
Moments turned into hours. Hours turned into a few hours. A few hours turned into tomorrow. As strange as this was, Bob continued to assure me this was a simple misunderstanding and would be taken care of. As of Friday, I still had no answer to one simple question:
Are the employees that I'm presenting on Monday covered under a valid work comp policy?
I never got an answer to that question. Bob said COO Mari Kautzman handled it. Mari testified at trial that she handled it Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Direct HR knew nothing about it being handled as of Friday morning. Bob knew nothing about it being handled as of Friday morning. Mari - having been forced to speak to me on Friday morning - told me that she was waiting on Direct HR. Apparently, she either didn't know anything about it being handled or she forgot in the span of less than 12 hours. Casey Kraus told me on Friday - and again under oath at trial - that he knew nothing about my situation whatsoever. David Dourgarian told me the same thing on the phone on Friday. He knew nothing, either. Despite having emailed back and forth for two days (again, I know this with the benefit of the discovery phase of litigation), apparently nobody knew anything at all?
I got a voice mail from Bob on Friday afternoon. In it, he said that "he had been given direction by the CEO and the COO that we are not moving forward with your company as this time." He invited me to call him with any questions. I called him and asked him what reason(s) they gave for making that decision. He told me that he wasn't made aware. That, too, was a lie as I have a copy of the email sent to him directing him to inform me of their decision and the reason why.
In internal communications turned over by TempWorks and admitted into evidence at trial, it was obvious that there was a real problem with them being able to get work comp through Direct HR as early as Wednesday morning. Direct HR required all communication regarding employees (an email) to come from TempWorks. TempWorks decided, internally, that it would require too much effort for an employee to forward an email from 180 Personnel to Direct HR so they decided they would just walk away. After all, I was a little self-funded start-up. What could I possibly do?
I fought them. With everything I had and through their every attempt to shut me down and break me I fought them. I had my day in court and I won. In fact, in her written judgment the judge found CEO David Dourgarian "not credible" under oath, COO Mari Kautzman "not credible" under oath and Executive VP Casey Kraus "not credible" under oath. Bob Pugliano was no longer part of TempWorks and was not called by TempWorks to testify. The only other witness for TempWorks was Ashlee Brace who testified at deposition that I "yelled" at her. I guess she "forgot" that it was my colleague who had spoken to her in a way that she deemed 'rude and bossy'. Even more unfortunate for her, and her credibility, was that she 'forgot", having received an immediate apology via email and voicemail from me, that she replied to my email thanking me and assuring me that I had no reason to apologize to her as I had "never treated her with anything but respect."