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How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer
7

How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

(OP)
There was a man (non-engineer) who used to do design drafting on a contract basis for my firm twenty years ago, prior to my hire. My firm is a design engineering firm that produces construction drawings for commercial construction. The man established contact with many of the company's Design-Build clients and then left the company. For the last twenty years he has been soliciting work from these Design-Build contractors, completing the drawings, and then paying various PEs to stamp them for him. In 2007, the state board gave him a cease and desist order, but he has only gotten smarter with his actions. His name never appears on any of his drawings any longer, but we all know that he is doing the work. Currently, he has a retired Civil Engineer stamping his HVAC drawings. If that man is turned it, then he will just move to another PE to stamp them. How do you stop a guy like this? Obviously, he is stealing work from my company, but more importantly, he is a total fraud who leads all his clients to believe he is qualified to do this work. The Design-Build contractors don't care, simply because they are getting stamped drawings at a reduced price. The state board wants a smoking gun dropped in their lap. He is too smart for that. Please help!

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

If the work being done is incompetent, the professional engineers stamping the incompetent work are the ones you need to go after. During their discipline cases, the issue of a non-engineer or unlicensed engineer doing work in the scope of professional engineering will come to light, names will be revealed and the licensing body will come after the offender.

If the work being done is being done competently and stamped (properly) by a professional engineer, you have no recourse. You have just discovered how professional engineering works in every jurisdiction with a Certificate of Authorization process- the work can be done by nonlicensed engineers or non-engineers, as long as a licensee takes professional responsibility for the work. That the work wasn't actually done by a licensee is nobody's business other than the employer/C of A holder.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

How about the old fashioned way: Do the work cheaper or better. If his work is bad, he'll be found out.
Anyway, the guy sounds like he's pretty old. If you can't beat him, mother nature will.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

While it's never fun when someone isn't playing by the rules; I think the bigger question is there a risk to the safety of life and/or property? If this is as you suspect do you have any reason to believe the designs are not competent? If so, I'd pursue this further as moltenmetal said; you'll have to go after the stamping engineer and find ways to prove the designs are faulty. This is likely no small task.

Whatever you do, I'd stick to your guns and not play a race to the bottom game.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

(OP)
Thank you so much for the comments. I think I need to clarify that the non-engineer who is soliciting the work from the contractors, and completing the drawings is working as a Sole Proprietor under his own company name. Once he is done with the drawings, he then gives them to an PE to "plan-stamp" them for him. He collects all the money, and then gives the engineer a token amount for providing the stamp. This is wrong in so many ways. Whether or not the drawings impose a threat to anyone, is not the point. He is not allowed to solicit engineering work, nor is he allowed to complete any work without supervision. Since this work is HVAC work, it will be very difficult to show incompetence of the engineer who is doing the plan stamping. Most of his drawings are adequate and would contain enough information to obtain a permit. If the engineer is turned in, the non-engineer will just move on to another retired engineer who will take the risk of plan stamping. In a worst case, the non-engineer will be fined $1,000 (which happened in 2007), and then he will continue as normal. The rewards outweigh the risks.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

It seems to me that you should, instead, be going after the PEs that stamp the work; they have a licensure responsibility to have "responsible charge" or "responsible supervision" of the work performed that they stamp. Unless they can show in their records that they had regular meetings and/or design/peer reviews, they're complicit in someone else practicing without a license. Getting their licenses suspended or investigated probably won't be worth the chump change they're getting for the stamps.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Check your local state board rules and laws. There are many states in the US that prohibit individuals from soliciting engineering work if the firms are not owned by a PE.

Check out Eng-Tips Forum's Policies here:
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RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Just to clarify, is this actually illegal in your jurisdiction? In my jurisdiction this isn't technically illegal as long as the engineer performs a thorough review and is in responsible charge of the design:

Quote (Board Rules)

Any licensed Professional Engineer may apply a seal on any plans, specifications, reports or calculations, provided such documents are prepared or reviewed personally by or under the supervision of that licensed Professional Engineer. By affixing his or her seal to any professional engineering document the licensed Professional Engineer takes full legal responsibility for it, regardless of whether the Professional Engineer receives any compensation.

Of course, the non-licensed person cannot claim to be an engineer, or that they can perform engineering, so it's a little grey for them to be advertising for such work but I can see a reasonable work around if they state up front that they will hire an engineer to oversee the work. As the person you mention is not putting their name on these documents they may not be running afoul of practicing engineering without a license.

In short, depending on your local laws you may be stuck with just chasing him or her from one engineer to another and if they're preparing competent drawings and designs there may be nothing you can do.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Sounds to me like you're a third party making accusations against a competitor based upon assumptions, not a good position to be in. Regardless, he may not in fact be soliciting engineering work, he may be soliciting design work to be reviewed by an independent PE which is perfectly legal and normal practice in many locales.

I would take Jed Clampett's advice above and focus on competing rather than spending time on something that may get you sued out of business and/or cost your license.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

(OP)
I’m sorry for confusing some people. As I stated previously, the non-engineer was already fined $1000 from the KY State Board in 2007. This is definitely illegal in KY. I also stated that I am obviously losing potential work. That’s one reason why it is upsetting. Whenever I talk to these contractors, they will tell me they hire the “non-engineer” to complete their drawings. He solicits their work and they will confirm it. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought a design-build contractor cannot legally contract with a non-engineer for stamped drawings? The money flows from the design-build contractor, to the fake engineer, to the real engineer. Has anyone had any luck showing the flow of the money? Thanks.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

EBD,

It doesn't really sound like you have a leg to stand on here. It doesn't matter which way the money flows. There is nothing illegal about selling an engineered product. As long as the designer doesn't advertise engineering services, he is clear. If he is providing plans that do not present a danger to the public, there is no ethical concern. If he is providing a quality product, there is no concern at all.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote (EngineerByDay)

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought a design-build contractor cannot legally contract with a non-engineer for stamped drawings?

I'm not sure why it would be. This happens all the time. A fair amount of the pre-engineered submittals I review are situations where contractor is getting the product from some company who has farmed out the engineering to someone else. I see this on precast, prestressing tendons, FRP, light gauge submittals, sway bracing, and tons more in the structural world. I assume it's even more common in the mechanical world.

On large design-build jobs it even happens within the design team. Contractor hires architect who then hires engineers. Therefore contractor is contracted with a non-engineer and receives stamped engineering drawings from them.

I'm with NorthCivil. I don't know that you have a leg to stand on here other than to report any deficient engineering work to the board. I'd think it would be really, really easy to paint anything you bring to the board as sour grapes on your part for a former employee (not even, since you said he did it on a contract basis) of 20 years leaving the company and taking some business with him.

Please also keep in mind before reporting deficient engineering to the board that in many states you should be giving the sealing engineer the chance to correct any deficient work before you escalate to the board. If you don't you could be violating the board's code of ethics and be putting your own license in jeopardy. And if there really is no deficient work you could be opening yourself to legal jeopardy as well. I'd be pretty livid if some random company that previously contracted with one of my clients went after my license and erroneously reported me to the board for deficient work as part of some spat that doesn't even involve me.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

If you can't beat him, join him.

If the lost business is significant enough, and there are no actual bridges burnt here, would trying to recruit him be feasible for your firm?

If his designs are good, and you, or someone in your firm, could provide the PE stamps, you might both be able to gain if this person is interested in being an employee. It doesn't seem like you are a big fan of this person, but business is business and if you're firm is hurting from the current arrangement, maybe a new arrangement can be worked out.

Andrew H.
www.mototribology.com

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

There was a thread (thread784-428500: New "Structural" startup with a few questions) not too long ago where a guy with an EIT started up a sole proprietorship with essentially the same business model. People ripped into him pretty thoroughly for soliciting engineering services as a non-engineer. How is this case any different? Clearly this guy in Kentucky is doing something shady if the state has already levied a fine and issued a cease and desist order.

Maybe try this:

1) Tell the state that contractor XYZ told you they contracted with this non-engineer ABC who is soliciting engineering services.
2) Maybe the state calls the contractor and confirms that he is in fact flaunting the cease and desist order.
3) State can now progress to the next level of disciplinary action for violating the order.

I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of the law on this topic, but if guy ABC has already been fined, then it's apparent that whatever he is doing is illegal. I'm a little surprised that people are willing to defend this guy who is clearly undercutting the profession of engineering. Unless he has a PE or works for a firm that is licensed by the state to perform engineering services, I don't see how he can advertise and solicit clients those services.

Quote (MrHershey)

On large design-build jobs it even happens within the design team. Contractor hires architect who then hires engineers. Therefore contractor is contracted with a non-engineer and receives stamped engineering drawings from them.

I think the difference is that the architect isn't soliciting engineering services. They have to go out and hire a legit engineer for that scope. For delegated design items the contractor still has to go hire a legit engineer. If the legit engineer then subs out the drafting and design work to Mr. ABC under his direction, then that sounds legal and ethical to me. But Mr. ABC shouldn't be out there pretending to be something he's not.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

bones: I'm not defending the non-engineer, I'm just stating that they may not be doing anything illegal anymore that OP can go after him or her for.

The difference I see between the thread you posted and this one is whether or not the unlicensed person is offering engineering services and holding themselves out to be an engineer. The linked thread with the EIT was someone who was clearly offering engineering and holding themselves out to be an engineer. As ron in that thread pointed out, he was clearly in violation of Florida law.

This is less clear cut. I haven't looked up the rules/laws for KY but if he was fined it sounds like he ran afoul of holding himself out as an engineer. However, if he renames his company Joe's Drafting and Detailing, doesn't claim to offer engineering, gets hired for a job that requires PE stamped drawings, and tells his client that he will sub-contract with an engineer to stamp his drawings; I don't believe he's doing anything illegal in most states.

Is it unfair? Sure.
Is it something to be discouraged? Yes.
Is it misleading to his client and/or providing substandard work? Possibly.
Is it unethical and/or unsafe? Possibly.
Is it wrong or illegal? Probably not.

In the precast industry many smaller precast companies don't have an engineer on staff. However, precast designs are put out bid (either as the sub-contractor or as the prime contractor) with the understanding that many of the precast designs will need to be stamped by an engineer. Thus, the engineer is working for the precaster and often stamping the precasters drawings and sometimes even their designs (after appropriate reviews of course). I have nothing wrong with this, as long as the engineer is competent and ethical. The precaster isn't holding themselves out as an engineer (unless they do actually have an engineer on staff like our company does).

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

I don’t disagree with any of that. I guess it really comes down to how he is representing himself and his business.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Regardless of the competition, I would recommend the OP consider some continuing education and/or mentorship through one of the professional societies. This situation is rather common and basic licensing law and limitations should be well understood by anyone working at a PE firm and most definitely by PEs, not only for legal but also strategic business reasons. The CE/SE/MEP world has been largely sheltered for decades from outsourcing, but in recent years there has been a bit of an influx of foreign competition. The same laws allowing his domestic competition to design and outsource final engineering approval allow foreign businesses to do the exact same thing from overseas. In reality, the OP's employer should easily be able to outcompete the designer simply due to the 2x nature of his outsourcing (designer and the PE's separate overhead costs, insurance, etc). If they're having problems competing against an inefficient domestic competitor now, the OP might start planning for the eventuality of competing with 3rd world labor.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote (bones206)

I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of the law on this topic, but if guy ABC has already been fined, then it's apparent that whatever he is doing is illegal. I'm a little surprised that people are willing to defend this guy who is clearly undercutting the profession of engineering. Unless he has a PE or works for a firm that is licensed by the state to perform engineering services, I don't see how he can advertise and solicit clients those services.

I'm operating under the assumption that he's not soliciting/offering engineering services. OP said he got fined over a decade ago and got a cease and desist and has since 'gotten smarter'. I wouldn't consider him to be very 'smart' if he was continuing to blatantly offer engineering services in violation of a cease and desist order.

I'll go ahead and clarify that I'm not defending the guy. Similar to TME, I don't really like what he's doing. But if he's not portraying himself as an engineer, he's not offering engineering services (just drafting/coordination) and there's no deficient work to go after his stamping engineer(s) for, then I'm not really sure OP has any standing to do anything about it. If OP has reported him to the board for any of the above and they've declined to act on it, then I'd think that's the end of it.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

True, not knowing all the facts makes it impossible to judge. I just think this type of arrangement is exactly what the whole licensing is intended to avoid in the first place. It’s in the state’s interest to shut this guy down to protect those who have gone through the struggle and expense of licensure. If you allow a grey area to be exploited like this, the market will be flooded with wannabe engineers and shady plan stampers.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

We have competitors who can do a project cheaper than us. Everyone does. We make up for it by adding more care and knowledge to our designs. Plus we're around to respond to questions for years and years after the design is complete. If this guy is doing designs and they work every time, maybe he's right and you're wrong, regardless of the legal niceties of licensing and sealing.
Finally, how about throwing some blame toward the design builder who's buying his services? I can only hope that they end up paying whatever they've saved times a multiple of 50 for just one of his designs.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

In two states I've lived in:

Advertising engineering services if you are not a PE or not representing a registered firm - Illegal
Creating drawings or other engineering products if you are not a PE or being supervised by one - Illegal (except for certain manufacturing and utility exemptions)
Telling a customer that you will hire a PE to stamp drawings that you create - Not Illegal
Hiring a PE to stamp drawings you create - Not Illegal
Being hired to apply your stamp to drawings someone else created not under your supervision - Illegal


This is not a substitute for professional legal advice.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

I would be interested to see how a case like this would turn out in court. Didn't someone get the book thrown at him for giving his opinion about the timing of traffic lights?

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Not to start too much into that tangent but that eventually got thrown out last I recall. Rightly so in my mind, there are plenty of engineering professions where an engineering license is not required. Using the title "engineer" should not always be considered holding out as a professional engineer IMO.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

If your jurisdiction is Kentucky, note the following from the Board's website:

Quote (https://kyboels.ky.gov/Getting-Licensed/Pages/Gett...)

A business entity must have a Kentucky licensed Professional Engineer (Professional Land Surveyor) on staff who will be in responsible charge of the engineering (land surveying) services provided in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If more than one place of business is maintained in Kentucky, a different Kentucky licensed Professional Engineer (Professional Land Surveyor) must be in responsible charge of the engineering (land surveying) work for each office and be located at that facility. A licensee who renders occasional, part-time, or consulting services to or for a business entity shall not be in responsible charge.

The Kentucky Board of Engineers offers a means to submit complaints: https://kyboels.ky.gov/Consumer-Information/Pages/...

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

So, I looked up the professional engineering laws of Kentucky so we can discuss OP's specific situation. I've attached the PDF for anyone else to review.

By my understanding the actions OP describe are specifically illegal in KY unless the engineer is a officer or part-owner of the former employee's business.

Quote (KY 322.060)

(d) A professional engineer who renders occasional, part-time, or consulting engineering services to or for a business entity required to hold a permit from the board under this section shall not be designated as the person in responsible charge of the engineering work unless the professional engineer is an officer or owner of the business entity.

Potentially this could be skirted if the former employee's company is not considered to be doing engineering (just drafting). Alternatively the engineer could be made a part owner of the company. By my not-a-lawyer understanding, and by OPs description, it appears that what he's doing should be considered practicing engineering without a permit.

The definition of engineering in KY is covered here:

Quote (KY 322.010)

(4) "Engineering" means any professional service or creative work, the adequate performance of which requires engineering education, training, and experience as an engineer.
(a) "Engineering" shall include:
1. Consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, certification, and design of engineering works and systems;
a. Engineering design and engineering work associated with design/build projects;
b. Engineering works and systems which involve earth materials, water or other liquids, and gases;
c. Planning the use of land, air, and waters; and
d. Performing engineering surveys and studies;

2. The review of construction for the purpose of assuring compliance with drawings and specifications; any of which embraces this service or
work, either public or private, in connection with any utilities, structures, certain buildings, building systems, machines, equipment, processes,
work systems, or projects with which the public welfare or the safeguarding of life, health, or property is concerned, when that
professional service or work requires the application of engineering principles and data;

3. The teaching of engineering design courses in any program accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board
for Engineering and Technology or any engineering program deemed equivalent by the board;

4. The negotiation or solicitation of engineering services on any project in this state, regardless of whether the persons engaged in the practice of
engineering:
a. Are residents of this state;
b. Have their principal place of business in this state; or
c. Are in responsible charge of the engineering services performed; and

5. The services of a professional engineer who engages in the practice of land surveying incident to the practice of engineering that does not relate
to the location or determination of land boundaries.

(b) "Engineering" shall not include the professional services performed by persons who:
1. Develop or administer construction project safety programs, construction safety compliance, construction safety rules or regulations,
or related administrative regulations; or
2. Only operate or maintain machinery or equipment;

(5) "Practice of engineering" means the performance of any professional service
included in subsection (4)(a) of this section;

I generally dislike these definitions of engineering as they're so broad that sometimes just operating a calculator could be deemed "practicing engineering", I would be shocked if all of this could hold up in court. That said, it does appear that KY is specific enough in what they define practicing engineering and I would suspect that OP's former employee is indeed falling under this definition.

For OPs specific case I'd suggest that the best way to go about this would be to go after the engineer. Unless he's a part owner or officer of the company then he's violating KY 322.060. You could even gather this information easily yourself; just call up the company anonymously and ask if Engineer XYZ works there (whoever's stamp is on the drawings).

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Per JAE above, some states, say CA for instance, prohibits firms from soliciting engineering work outside their discipline of practice. Not picking on ME and EE firms (or am I), soliciting 'and' performing structural engineering work 'or' construction administration with regards to structural engineering if your firm does not have Civil/Structural Engineer as an Principal and/or acting Officer of the company is against the Board's Rules. Subcontracting agreements and partnerships are sometimes kept silent in order for firms to appear to be multidiscipline when they are not. Some firms are transparent about this, some are not. The path from client to engineer can be alarmingly convoluted. Engineer beware.

Review your Board's rules, you may find something. Otherwise, let your less credentialed competitor have the less paying clients, good riddens! Keep the fat ones who respect and appreciate your services because of the quality they know they are getting from you. You'll be happier doing the work and you'll help keep all of our revenues a little more respectable in order for us to keep somewhat decent food on the table. And a smiley face,....:)

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote:

Didn't someone get the book thrown at him for giving his opinion about the timing of traffic lights?

No, the board tried to hang him for repeatedly referring to himself as an engineer, which he legally is for other work under the industrial exemption. The case against him was thrown out in court and the board reprimanded bc they defined engineering in an overly broad manner as any application of math and science, which is obviously ridiculous. The judge ruled that they violated his constitutional right to free speech.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

This happens all day in the residential world....I think he learned from his slap on the wrist to not advertise engineering services. Most guys like him around here call themselves "designers" and have a stamper in the background. Some of the older ones that have been around do good work but dont have a license. How do you think the licensed architects feel about this? Probably pissed but they cant do anything about it; they either compete or chase bigger and better work.

A good starting point would be to figure out how much he is charging and his turn around time then figure out how to beat him at his own game. Unless this guys is doing work for pennies there is no reason why you cant compete if he is doing similar work. Even if he is doing it for peanuts he will get burnt out or out of business before you know it.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Sorry about the tangent re: the traffic signal guy. My point was just that the state was willing to go after one individual hard for a pretty trivial reason but apparently let this underbelly of shady pseudo-engineers exist with lax enforcement. Besides cutting into business opportunities, don’t these people also lower the value of engineering licensure in general?

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote:

My point was just that the state was willing to go after one individual hard for a pretty trivial reason but apparently let this underbelly of shady pseudo-engineers exist with lax enforcement. Besides cutting into business opportunities, don’t these people also lower the value of engineering licensure in general?

What's shady or devaluing about anything he's doing?

From the sound of it, the competitor did design work for the OP's firm previously and his work was stamped after reviewing with a PE. From the sound of it he's doing the exact same thing now - designing projects that are then reviewed with a PE and stamped. Both designer and PE are still employed, so no loss there. Quality work can still be done, no loss there. The PE has work coming to him without any real effort on his part, value gained there. The only value lost would be that the customer's check is now supporting two companies' overhead costs and there is certainly time lost communicating between the two companies. The competitor could hire his PE sub and be on equal footing with the OP and many other engineering firms but the PE would likely make less money as an employee, which would in fact devalue the profession.

Regarding "shady," the competitor sounds like he is conducting an open, public business. The OP OTOH is trying to shut down a competitor that his employer should easily beat on cost and time efficiency on most projects, but apparently is choosing not to, he's looking for guildism to protect profit - shady.

If you'd like to get into "pseudo-engineers" look at a few corporate job descriptions, note the differences between engineers and technologists, then ask yourself which many (most?) CE/SE/MEP PEs are. Usually technologists' duties revolve around the "practical application of known engineering formulas, tools, and technology to design.....," whereas an engineer is typically responsible for the "development of new engineering tools and technology for design...."

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Presumably the company he used to work for (the OP's company), has a license to perform engineering services issued by the state. It's normal for those firms to have non-licensed employees working in concert with and under the responsible charge of licensed employees. That's a far cry from one of the non-licensed employees soliciting work as an engineer (which is the title of this thread, so I assume that's what he's doing), then having someone review and stamp his designs. As SandCounter pointed out, that doesn't meet the legal definition of responsible charge. Even if he hired the PE stamper, he would have to get his business entity registered as a licensed engineering firm with the state. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure it would still not be legit to solicit engineering work.

I respect the guy for going out and making a living, but he should just play by the rules or suffer the consequences of infuriating his legitimate competitors.

Is it that much of a stretch to call someone shady who has already been issued a cease and desist order?

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

(OP)
Bones206,
You hit the nail on the head. I would gladly turn him in, but the Board is looking for a smoking gun. They like going after the licensed personnel, not the unlicensed personnel, simply because its easier. Whenever his plan-stamper is reported, he just moves to another one. I'm just going to ask the Board to call one of his clients (design-build contractors) and ask them who they use for their engineering. They will gladly tell them they use the un-licensed person's company, simply because they see nothing wrong with hiring him. The bad news is that in a worst case, he will be fined $1,000 and could possibly go to jail for seven days. I'm afraid he considers this an acceptable risk, and always has. Thanks again.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

I've always wondered why fines for these things are so small. I get it that someone skipping their continuing education requirements or being a licensed engineer but letting your license expire should just be a slap on the wrist. But, for people who are actually practicing engineering without a license OP's entirely right in my mind that you could actually make plenty of money to cover the fine and a few days in jail.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote (bones206)

Presumably the company he used to work for (the OP's company), has a license to perform engineering services issued by the state. It's normal for those firms to have non-licensed employees working in concert with and under the responsible charge of licensed employees. That's a far cry from one of the non-licensed employees soliciting work as an engineer (which is the title of this thread, so I assume that's what he's doing), then having someone review and stamp his designs. As SandCounter pointed out, that doesn't meet the legal definition of responsible charge. Even if he hired the PE stamper, he would have to get his business entity registered as a licensed engineering firm with the state. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure it would still not be legit to solicit engineering work.

That's really the main thing here.

Boils down to two questions:
  • Is this business performing engineering services, yes or no?
  • Does this business have the correct permit from the licensing board to provide engineering services, yes or no?
If the answer to the first question is no then we're done. OP clearly thinks they are. Some seem to think they're not. Personally I think if they're just marketing themselves as a drafting/coordination service and making it clear that they're subbing out the engineering then they're probably fine. Maybe a different chain of command than normal and not the way I'd prefer things to be done, but this guy isn't practicing engineering any more than any other subcontractor who provides delegated design items and subs out the engineering.

If the answer to both is yes then we're done. Sounds like the general set-up hasn't really changed. If the licensing board has reviewed the set-up and still given the business the license, then I would presume the board is okay with it.

If the answer to the first is yes and the second is no, then there's an issue and feel free to report it to the board. If you've already reported to the board and nothing has happened then follow up. If you've already reported and they've declined to look into it or declined to penalize the firm, then it's over.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote (KY 322.010)

(5) "Practice of engineering" means the performance of any professional service
included in subsection (4)(a) of this section;

Quote (KY 322.010)

4.(a).4. The negotiation or solicitation of engineering services on any project in this state, regardless of whether the persons engaged in the practice of
engineering:

a. Are residents of this state;
b. Have their principal place of business in this state; or
c. Are in responsible charge of the engineering services performed; and

By this definition, the act of telling the contractor that you will provide them stamped drawings is by definition performing engineering services. If I'm interpreting the legaleese correctly...

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote (JedClampett (Structural)23 Jul 18 15:54 How about the old fashioned way:)


I thought you were going to suggest roughing the guy up in the middle of the night. bigsmile

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

I guess the question I would ask is do you really want those clients? We have an interview process, and there are questions asked to get an understanding if they view the engineering as valuable, or just an annoyance to get papers filled out. If the latter, we opt not to work with them. It seems unlikely you will find the necessary print to take this up with your board, so it will come down to a client reporting him where he has made a verbal claim purporting something he is not. Unless you have proof of something unsafe, I would be inclined to wash my hands of it.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

If a retired engineer with a valid PE license wants to make some money while in retirement and charge less for his services then I guess there's nothing you can do.

Sounds odd to me that only a PE can own an engineering firm in Kentucky (or anywhere else). I guess MBA's can't own an engineering firm in KY? Laws are weird.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

awhicker84: A non-engineer can own the firm, the PE just has to be an officer of the company. Essentially you need to have a full-time engineer on staff, you can't just sub out the engineering work to an outside company or individual.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries https://www.facebook.com/AmericanConcrete/

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote:

By this definition, the act of telling the contractor that you will provide them stamped drawings is by definition performing engineering services. If I'm interpreting the legaleese correctly...

Offering design services as the competitor likely is however doesn't meet any of the state definitions of engineering.

Quote:

(a) "Engineering" shall include:
1. Consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning, certification, and design of engineering works and systems;
a. Engineering design and engineering work associated with design/build projects;
b. Engineering works and systems which involve earth materials, water or other liquids, and gases;
c. Planning the use of land, air, and waters; and
d. Performing engineering surveys and studies;

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

That's still interesting. If the customer receives a stamped drawing then why the need for a full time engineer?

So basically, from the cursory browsing thru this conservation, you cannot sell 'engineering services', but might be able to sell 'designing services'. If you sell 'design services' then all you can do is prepare an unstamped drawing and then the 'engineering company' stamps the drawing. So the 'designer' is a sub contractor of the 'engineer'. I'd have to read the post above that quotes actual KY law because I find this very gray (but let's be honest, I'm just burning time because my next task at work is boring and I'm not interested enough to learn KY law).

Nevermind, post above clears it up.

However, it seems to me that the real beef is that the cost is lower. It also seems to me that the cost is lower because the PE is a retired engineer who is making money 'on the side' instead of trying to make a living. As a result his wages are lower than normal.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

The only issue I see here is the concern whether the "retired" engineers truly have direct supervisory control over the designs and also whether they are doing full design checks of every part of the design.

There are times when engineers "review" (i.e. look over a drawing for 5 minutes) and "check" (spot check a small piece of the overall design) and call that supervisory control and design. It is not.

For the retired engineer to provide their services in conformance with the typical US state engineering laws, they should be running through all the numbers, models, analyses, to essentially the same level as if they were the sole designer.

The only difference here would be that the ex-employee designer has already figured out the system, worked through coordination items, and drawn things up, which saves the PE some time of course.

But the PE should never depend on the designer's design calculations without running through the numbers themself.

The other issue is whether the PE, upon seeing something that isn't quite right, wants to change the design and the "designer" refuses. That is not supervisory control.

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RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

A former coworker once told me about a PE friend of his who made a living stamping drawings in Florida. This PE would brag that the limiting factor in how much money he made in a day was how fast he could flip over the corners of the drawings to put his stamp on the border.

I agree that the laws regarding this particular business model are gray. Unfortunately, we all know what gray areas lead to when human nature and money are involved...

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

It would be easier to do more work that requires engineering knowledge than to get into a fight with a botton feeder. It sounds like you are doing work which is very basic and cookie cutter.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Check your state laws because many states require that any firm doing engineering work have at least one principal be a Professional Engineer. Someone has to know what they're doing and know enough to assume responsibility.

If an MBA holder is also a Professional Engineer, they are qualified to own an engineering firm. If a barber is also a Professional Engineer, they, too, are qualified to own an engineering firm.

The work performed may not be basic and cookie cutter. If the non-engineer learned enough to effectively copy cat, he can "get away with it." But, if he sees anything beyond what he knows, he's in trouble and so are his clients.

Speaking for myself, I didn't go to school and abide by the laws to compete with non-engineers such as this. It's an activity that hurts the profession and some individuals. Just because it doesn't happen in your discipline/expertise does not mean it never happens anywhere else in the profession.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

At an energy conference several years ago, I met a man that called himself a controls engineer. Has it on his business card, etc. He worked on boilers and HVAC systems. When I asked him about tuning and various control aspects, he clarified that he only opens and closes valves. He doesn't get into tuning because he doesn't understand it. Yet, he claims to be a controls engineer that can optimize boilers and HVAC systems. Righto!

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Quote:

What's shady or devaluing about anything he's doing?

From the sound of it, the competitor did design work for the OP's firm previously and his work was stamped after reviewing with a PE. From the sound of it he's doing the exact same thing now - designing projects that are then reviewed with a PE and stamped. Both designer and PE are still employed, so no loss there. Quality work can still be done, no loss there. The PE has work coming to him without any real effort on his part, value gained there. The only value lost would be that the customer's check is now supporting two companies' overhead costs and there is certainly time lost communicating between the two companies. The competitor could hire his PE sub and be on equal footing with the OP and many other engineering firms but the PE would likely make less money as an employee, which would in fact devalue the profession.

Regarding "shady," the competitor sounds like he is conducting an open, public business. The OP OTOH is trying to shut down a competitor that his employer should easily beat on cost and time efficiency on most projects, but apparently is choosing not to, he's looking for guildism to protect profit - shady.

This is where I'm at with it.

If he's doing good work, and the PE is checking his work, then good for both of them. Would you be screaming if the PE built an LLC, hired the dude, and then gave the dude all the revenues less his stamping fee? That's all an "actual engineering company" is.

Maybe what you need to do is offer to stamp his drawings for a fee.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

Nobody likes losing work to bottom feeders. Not sure where you got the idea that your clients are not fair game for anybody out there in there in the world regardless of previous affiliations.

RE: How to Stop Ex-Employee Soliciting Work as an Engineer

The right thing to do is simple. If the Civil PE is not stamping civil plans then there is a possibility he his signing outside his expertise. In any event he his violating one canon and that is because he is required to supervise the designer. He will also have a specified amount of time to produce the elaborate and descriptive engineers report of the system he sealed . Report his ass to the board.

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