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I am a contractor for a very large bank in the US. The city I live in has several other large banks as well, and it is fairly common for contractors to move from 1 bank to another once a contract has ended.

I am currently looking for fulltime work, both on my own and through contracting agencies. Several of these contracting agencies have told me outright they cannot work with me because pulling me away from my current role would damage their relationship with these large banks. For example, a contracting company I have never worked with before wouldn't even consider me for a FT role at a non bank company.

Is this legal? If they are concerned about contractors leaving, shouldn't they be treating contractors better, rather than leveraging their power over other employers not to work with me? If it took, say, an extra $10/hour to keep contractors satisfied and not to leave, then I am taking on that extra cost myself because they are threatening the contractor agencies.

At the very least, unethical, and I know of some circumstances in which companies blocking employment elsewhere is against the law. Any HR experts have any insight?

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    We can't help with a legal interpretation of the problem, but we could help with navigating the situation of finding a new role. Perhaps edit out the part about legality and you're likely to get some helpful answers. – Jay Aug 11 '19 at 15:58
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    It's not clear to me exactly what you're asking. Are you asking if it's legal for a contracting company to not engage with you because of their relationships with other companies? If so, why wouldn't it be? Is there a law that says they have to engage with you? Companies are free to hire or not hire anyone they want as long as they abide by the relevant employment laws. Their not engaging with you sounds perfectly legal and ethical to me. They have business relationships that might be put at risk by "poaching" you away from your current position. Why would that be illegal or unethical? – joeqwerty Aug 11 '19 at 16:36
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    @joeqwerty Say there are 2 factories in town, it is in fact illegal for them to agree not to hire each others workers. This would allow management at each factory to keep their wages low, keep their employees options non existent, and allow management to leverage power over employees in an unfair way. This is not similar at all? – Issel Aug 11 '19 at 22:42
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    @Issel The outcome isn't similar. Nobody is preventing you from going to work at another bank. There is no collusion between this particular bank and the recruiting/contracting agency to prevent you from taking a job somewhere else, trying to control where you can work, or controlling your wages. The recruiting/contracting agency is merely honoring their relationship with this particular bank by not "poaching" you from them for a job somewhere else. This is not remotely similar to the illegal activity you seem to want to paint this as. – joeqwerty Aug 12 '19 at 0:31
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    Recruiting/contracting agencies make investments in time, effort, and money to establish, build, and maintain relationships with their clients. This particular recruiting/contracting agency is protecting those investments with this particular client by not "poaching" you away from this client. There's nothing illegal about that. You're free to work anywhere you want and you're free to work with any recruiting/contracting agency you choose. It's up to them whether or not they'll work with you. There's no law that says they have to. – joeqwerty Aug 12 '19 at 0:44
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Several of these contracting agencies have told me outright they cannot work with me because pulling me away from my current role would damage their relationship with these large banks. For example, a contracting company I have never worked with before wouldn't even consider me for a FT role at a non bank company.

Is this legal?

No this is not illegal. Happens all the time.

Companies are free to reject candidates for any reason they choose, other than those protected by law. This is not one of those protected cases.

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  • They can reject me for any reason that is not covered by a federally protected status, I understand that. But say there are 2 factories in town, it is in fact illegal for them to agree not to hire each others workers. This would allow each factory to keep their wages low, keep their employees options non existent, and allow management to leverage power over employees in an unfair way. This is not similar at all? – Issel Aug 11 '19 at 22:39
  • "2 factories in town, it is in fact illegal for them to agree not to hire each others workers" -- But it is legal to agree not to recruit each other's workers. Those contracting agencies are declining to act as agents for such recruitment. – A. I. Breveleri Aug 12 '19 at 3:31
  • @joe Strazzere They aren't acting on their own. A company using financial punishment to deter businesses from working with individuals doesn't sound legal at all. What other situations could they get away with this? "Don't develop property on that guys land, because we want him to go bankrupt so we can repossess his land without paying him" is another situation that surely is not legal, either, and it IS similar. – Issel Aug 12 '19 at 11:43
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    @Issel From what you've posted, those other companies are acting on their own. The bank isn't telling them not to ever hire you or else they'll retaliate, but instead those companies are worried that if they were to hire you the bank would be annoyed, which might have downstream effects that they want to avoid. That's unfortunate, but not illegal-- fear of a bad relationship != collusion. You haven't provided any indication that the bank you're working with is a party to these other companies' decisions at all, let alone directing them not to consider you. – Upper_Case Aug 12 '19 at 15:44
  • @A.I.Breveleri I wouldn't be so sure en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-Tech_Employee_Antitrust_Litigation – jcm Aug 13 '19 at 3:13
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Not answering the question, but I think you are asking the wrong question.

It's irrelevant if it's legal or not. If turns out to be illegal, what would you do ? Sue them to take you on as a client? What good would that do? Do you honestly believe that you would get good service from a company that you have dragged into court ?

Instead of focusing on the legality, perhaps you should focus on what to do: Maybe rephrase your question as "how can I find a new job if many agencies won't take me as a client because of anti-poaching concerns".

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