Rule 520

 My current temporary position is itching to hire me full time; I’ve never seen an employer so eager. There’s a snag – isn’t there always – my agency wants at least $5,500 for the privilege of hiring me. By their calculations that’s 15% of what my salary would be. $5,500! That’s NUTS! I’m my biggest fan and even I wouldn’t want the University to pay that! Another issue is the fact that nobody is sure who would pay it. Human Resources say they don’t, our Administrative Office says they don’t and the office I’m in – says they can’t because they’re funded entirely by grants. I start to prepare for a lawsuit. I may have signed contracts and they may have too, but this has at least got to constitute unfair labor practices, these people are practically holding a non-profit -department hostage and practically forcing me to stay with them as a temp forever.


“Trevor,” Eva, our compliance and regulations officer starts, “Dr. Moro really wants to hire you, we hope you like it here, we all love having you here, but this five-thousand dollars, it’s just impossible for us to do.”


“Have you tried negotiating with them? The number it arbitrary, they’re hoping you won’t argue and just pay it.”


 “We haven’t. Isn’t there some way around this?”


“Let me make some calls, see what I can find out.”


“Please do, send them to me if you have to, but if you can find a way to save us that money, you’re in.”


Suddenly I’m tasked with having to fight for my job. I call down to our Administrative Office and let my supervisor know that she has to fight the %15 the agency is demanding. She says she’ll do it, that she wants to keep me here. She makes her calls and is thwarted by the agency; they refuse to budge from their $5,500.


Luckily I’ve made a few good contacts in the temporary agency industry and none of them with my current agency, which I often remind people are the rudest and most unprofessional people I’ve ever dealt with. I call up some other agencies, speak to my contacts and they’re all very helpful and very kind…too bad my current contract isn’t with them. I’m on the phone with one woman.


“So what’s going on here, Michelle, is that my current contract wants to drop XYZ and sign up with another company – they’re unhappy with the service.”


“Well we can definitely do that, thanks for calling me about that. Does your current contract have any concerns?”


“Yes, well, they’re concerned about what happens when they want to hire a temp on full time.”


“Well we abide by the industry standard Rule 520.”


Rule 520? I’ve heard of 420, 24/7 and the B-52’s, but what the hell….


“What’s that?”


“Oh, Rule 520? Its industry standard practice, after 520 hours – three months – you can be hired without any cost to the employer.”




HA! Got ya now!


She goes on for a few minutes, I give her all the info she needs and I bring this news to Eva and our Administrative Office. I mention that a lot of different things could be happening here. 1.) The agency could be playing dumb about 520, 2.) They’ve excluded it from our contract or 3.) They don’t practice it at all. Either way, I’ve done my part; it’s in our Administrative Offices hands now.


Eva and I sit back and talk about why I want to work in the HIV/AIDS Research Department, and why I would, ostensibly, take a sizable pay cut and technically a demotion to be here. It’s pretty easy to explain because it’s all truth and comes from my heart; if I have enough money to live, then I don’t care about titles or income, what I care about is being able to be part of a team that’s actually creating difference and change in this world. In short, I’d rather be part of something bigger that branding the newest, latest way to part customers from their money. Eva’s phone rings, and I leave her office to give her privacy.


I hear her shouting.




I try not to listen; it’s none of my business…until….

“They were just going to steal a job from him like THAT!”


My ears perk.


“Well that’s amazing news, just fantastic!” I run over to her office and she’s practically jumping out of her chair.


“What? What is it!” I ask.


“They don’t do 520; they do 360…that’s only 7 more weeks and they weren’t gonna tell us! Those bastards!”






We shout and jump up and down and high-five. I stop and ask Eva,


“So they were just gonna charge you $5,500 and not tell you that after 360 hours you could have me for free?”




 “You know, that’s pretty foolish. Because they piss someone off when they find out, like you, and then someone, like you, goes to Human Resources and informs them of how this company we have a contract with is technically screwing them out of a lot of money or great employees.”


 “And you bet I’m going to speak to Human Resources about it too.”


I chuckle. I feel like standing on a desk and letting out a roar…I beat the bastards at their own friggen contract game. Have you ever had people fight for you to be hired and then cheer for you when it happens? IT FEELS GOOD!


I remind Eva that that $5,500 is more than accounted for in the fees that they’re paying the agency weekly for my time here – I’ve seen the invoices; the agency takes nearly double what I get weekly. She says she knows, but the contract is paid through a central office, whereas the $5,500 flat fee would have been charged directly to our office. As much as the entire Medical School is a team, it’s also a series of fiefdoms that has it’s time-value-of-money seriously backwards. But no matter, by March 30th I’ll be the newest member of our Team and it feels good!



Anybody who works for a temp agency or knows someone who does, make sure you ask the agency if they follow the industry standard 520 Rule or what derivation of it they do. They may say it goes contract by contract, so make sure you ask for each assignment…the agency isn’t your friend. You do most of the work, they get most of the pay…the more you know about how they operate the less chance you have of being stuck in the temporary employment trap for long.



  1. Totally understand you view about having enough money to live….I feel the same way about teaching and coaching. I have friends that often ask me why I dont go look for a better paying job and get out of the education field. I always tell them the same thing…..I get up every morning and I do not dread going into work. To me that feeling alone is priceless!!!!!!!!

  2. Hot damn and halleluya to you.
    You can be very resourceful, like your sister and your dad.
    I think I may be coming more like you guys!!!!
    Good thinking and if the job is what you want, then I say go for it and enjoy your 40hr. work week.
    Hugs to you!

  3. Congratulations…you are awesome!

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