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Misleading Practices in Security Employment

Within the functions of the security industry, integrity is vital because it builds trust and reliability that are essential for professionals tasked with protecting people, assets, and information.
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One of the most frequent characteristics that someone will tell you is important for people working in the security industry, is integrity. Although we hear this word being used quite often, it seems to be scarce, in all actuality.

According to Cambridge Dictionary the definition for the word integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. Within the functions of the security industry, integrity is vital because it builds trust and reliability that are essential for professionals tasked with protecting people, assets, and information. It ensures adherence to legal and ethical standards, fostering a reputation of dependability and professionalism. Integrity also guards against the abuse of power and corruption, crucial in a field where ethical conduct is paramount.

As you can imagine, integrity in the world of security employment is not just a buzzword – but the backbone of trust and reliability in a sector where the stakes are always high. However, we all have experienced hiring companies or managers who use deceptive practices, misleading job postings, inconsistent payment practices, or they blur, on purpose, the lines between different employment roles and responsibilities.

Misleading Job Postings

Imagine having paid thousands of dollars and having spent hundreds of training hours preparing for a career in Executive Protection (EP), only to find yourself stationed as a static, plain clothes guard. Individuals have been hired to provide Residential Security (RST) services only to find themselves tasked with chasing homeless people or drug addicts from the client’s neighborhood. Unfortunately, misleading job posts, or commonly called bait-and-switch tactics, are quite common in our industry. Not only they are disappointing for the applicant but can have many negative results. Misalignments between advertised job descriptions and actual role functions are not just misleading, they waste applicants’ time and resources spent preparing for a different type of job, and they can be potentially dangerous. Another example of such practices that we see far too often is when it comes to event security personnel claiming their function is EP, dressed in black polos and khaki pants to maintain a tactical look even when all they are offering is basic security services for a political rally or suit and tie gala event. Sadly, these services are quite often sold as “Protection detail” or “Security Project”. The payments are made as 1099 for “EP” work while the actual functions fall under Security Guard and require W2, an issue we will cover later on.

To clarify, this isn’t about nitpicking job titles or saying EP is more “important” than uniformed security jobs, it’s about ensuring that individuals are adequately prepared and trained for the responsibilities they will undertake. The consequences of such misrepresentations can range from personal dissatisfaction to employee turnover to severe operational inefficiencies. Role Misrepresentation is much more than a mismatch.

When companies play fast and loose with job roles and responsibilities, they don’t just risk their reputation, but they also expose their employees to a myriad of legal complications. Misclassification of employees, unmet labor standards, and blurred lines of accountability can lead to both civil and criminal liabilities. It is a legal minefield that no company should bet their employees’ safety upon.

The Payment Puzzle

Another issue worth discussing is the payment, payment options and payment timeframe. We have found ourselves in the past having to wait 30, 45, or even 60 days. There are quite a few stories of individuals waiting even months for their pay. Some have to make more than one inquiry or request to be paid for their time worked. There is something fundamentally wrong when those tasked with protecting assets and people are themselves left unprotected in financial uncertainty and have to wait for months and/or literally beg for their money to be paid. Late or inconsistent payments are more than just inconveniences, they’re breaches of trust that strain the livelihoods of hardworking individuals. As security professionals, timely and reliable compensation isn’t just expected, it’s a right. So, if you are hiring people to work for you, ask yourself, do you make sure they are paid on time and they do not have to wait for the client to pay you, so you can pay them? As a business owner, do you have the budget needed to cover payments on time until you receive that check from your client? Have you done your work in securing a line of credit if necessary? If you see yourself failing on these points, then maybe you should reconsider the subject of owning a company.

Misrepresenting Employment Status

Some companies misclassify employees as independent contractors (1099) to avoid providing benefits and protections normally afforded to regular employees (W2). This can lead to employees missing out on health benefits, workers’ compensation, and job security. There seems to be a lot of ignorance when it comes down to the use and the differences between W2s and 1099s. Sometimes, those who know the difference are knowingly misleading those who are not aware. Differentiating between being an employee (W2) and an independent contractor (1099) is critical in our industry and you should know what each one can offer you and what limitations each one has. Misclassification affects more than just your tax forms, it impacts your employee rights, benefits, and job safety. It’s a distinction that every security professional should be clear about for their protection and peace of mind. Did you know that, unless otherwise specified and agreed upon in a contract or on an SOW, if you work as a 1099, they can pay you whenever they want? However, as a W2 employee, companies have to adhere to payment policies specified by their State for their employees.

Overstating Career Advancement Opportunities

How many times have you seen a job post promising career advancement opportunities only to discover that it was a lie? Companies present a job as having a high potential for professional growth, skill development, and promotion opportunities, when in actuality, these opportunities are completely absent or seem to disappear when you have spent some time with said company. In the world of security, it is quite common (and some companies will actually suggest it as a way for growth) for applicants to accept positions with lower initial salaries in the hope of rapid advancement and subsequent pay increases or just to add the name of that company to their resume.

False Promises of Training and Support

Same as with overstating career advancement opportunities, this type of misleading practice involves the claims to provide additional training, equipment, and support to new hires. This issue goes beyond just employee disappointment, as it can have a direct impact on the safety and effectiveness of the security personnel. When employees are left without the promised (and needed) training, they may lack crucial skills required to handle complex or dangerous situations, putting both themselves and others at risk. In addition, the absence of support, equipment, and resources can lead to a stressful work environment where employees feel undervalued and ill-equipped to perform their duties efficiently. The gap between promised and actual support can also lead to legal liabilities for the company, especially if the lack of proper training leads to accidents or security breaches.

Unrealistic Workload Expectations

Burnout in our industry is a very prevalent problem. Unrealistic workload expectations in the security industry are another form of misleading practice. The discrepancy between expected and actual job requirements can have severe consequences. Employees who are constantly overworked without adequate rest or support are at a higher risk of burnout, a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. This not only affects their well-being and job satisfaction but also compromises their ability to perform critical security functions effectively. In an industry where alertness and quick decision-making are paramount, fatigue and stress can lead to errors, impacting the safety and security of the people and assets they are meant to protect. Burnout can be deadly in our line of work, your attention to detail will suffer dramatically and your reaction time will be slower than normal if this is not addressed.

Lack of a Contract or the lack of Transparency in Contract Terms

Would you believe us if we told you that many colleagues go to work for someone without having signed a contract? It happens more often than you can imagine. Now, we do not have to explain ourselves regarding why a contract is needed in the first place, but we will discuss the complications when you have a contract that has a lack of transparency in the contract terms. Something like this within the security industry can be a significant issue that can lead to serious misunderstandings and disputes between employers and employees. When key elements of employment, such as pay rates, working hours, payment schedules, specific job responsibilities, and overall conditions of employment, are not clearly defined or are deliberately obscured in contractual agreements, it creates ground for confusion and frustration. Employees may find themselves agreeing to terms that are vastly different from their expectations, leading to feelings of being misled or exploited. Unclear contract terms can lead to legal disputes, agents’ pay being seriously delayed, agents not paid at all, personnel being overworked, or requested to perform duties outside of the role they were first hired for, etc.

Another important issue that we see falling under the contract section is the exploitative terms in employment. Contracts that include clauses or terms that are unfair or overly restrictive, such as non-compete clauses that are overly broad in scope or duration, limiting an employee’s future employment opportunities. Or restricting your W2 or 1099 agents for working with other organizations or claiming them as your ‘’guys/gals’’ and if someone wants to also hire them, they have to come through you.

Non-compliance with Legal Standards/Licensing

Non-compliance with legal standards in the security industry is a grave concern as it not only puts employees at risk but also exposes them to significant legal complications. When security firms fail to adhere to labor laws, health and safety regulations, and industry standards, they jeopardize the well-being and rights of their employees. When they operate without proper licensing or if they employ unlicensed individuals, they not only engage in illegal activities but also undermine the professionalism and credibility of the industry. For security personnel operating without the required licenses, this can have severe legal and financial consequences. Some may find themselves unknowingly working in a legal grey area, potentially facing personal legal consequences. And some will deliberately leave off the Security Guard registration category due to how it appears and open themselves up to unlicensed activity (It is less impressive according to them). For the employees aware of the licensing issues, it can create a moral dilemma and contribute to a workplace environment where legality and ethics are compromised.

In this industry we are all responsible, company owners, security employees, and contractors, to uphold the values of honesty and transparency in our industry. This isn’t about better job descriptions or timely payments; it’s about creating and maintaining a culture of respect and integrity all the while protecting ourselves from any liability. For those affected by these issues, speak up and know that you are not alone. Change is possible, and it starts with us – one honest job posting, one timely payment, and one correctly classified employee at a time.

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