Features

Marc Cairo – Elite Staffing

Revolutionizing workers’ comp & ensuring workers’ well-being

As the first general counsel of Elite Staffing, Marc Cairo plays a crucial role in ensuring its workers’ well-being and protection, particularly regarding workers’ compensation.

With a deep understanding of the legal landscape and a compassionate approach, Cairo relentlessly strives to enhance workers’ compensation policies and protocols.

“My dedication to this cause is rooted in a genuine concern for the safety and security of our workforce,” Cairo says.

Marc Cairo | General Counsel | Elite Staffing

Marc Cairo | General Counsel | Elite Staffing

By closely monitoring and actively addressing potential risks, Cairo seeks to create an environment where employees feel protected, valued and supported. His commitment to improving workers’ compensation exemplifies their unwavering dedication to the well-being of the company’s most valuable asset—its workers.

“Ensuring that our temporary laborers are well protected and taken care of is our team’s No. 1 priority,” he says.

As Elite Staffing’s first in-house counsel, Cairo has worn many hats and taken on the role of a risk manager and safety manager, to develop, design, and grow the legal department.

Supporting workers

Founded in 1991, Elite Staffing is headquartered in Chicago and provides temporary staffing and employment services to various industries, including light and skilled industries.

Upon his arrival at Elite Staffing, Cairo’s initial focus was on the workers’ compensation program. Cairo took on the task and was successful because of his nearly two decades of experience practicing in this area before joining Elite Staffing.

“At first, we were stuck in the mud and couldn’t get any traction. It took me six months to complete my initial audit of the existing program and another six months to get our new legal team in alignment,” Cairo says about his early time restructuring the workers’ compensation program.

After that, Cairo started working with new vendor providers, a new nurse case management service and a different third-party administrator. He says it took about five years for the new program to gain traction for Elite Staffing.

Marc Cairo | General Counsel | Elite Staffing

“Our internal staff is where it needs to be, and we’ve all worked hard to understand our goals,” Cairo says.

In the past several years, Elite Staffing has added an associate general counsel, a new claims manager and a new vice president of safety mitigation. The workers’ comp program is a constant work in progress, but Cairo is confident that the company has the team to tackle any issues that arise.

Cheri Gomez was added to the team as the claims manager and effectively handles the daily oversight of the program, Cairo says. She works closely with Cairo and the third-party administrator, Gallagher Bassett, as well as Elite’s vice president of safety mitigation, David Schoffman, and Marisol Arroyo, the workers’ compensation clerk. The team supports each other and Elite’s workforce, and the synergy of this team has enabled Cairo to expand his focus to other corporate matters, including legislation facing Elite’s industry.

“I have spent many hours in Springfield meeting with lawmakers discussing various pieces of legislation facing the staffing industry as a board member of the Staffing Services Association of Illinois,” he says.

Innovating and improving the program

Six years ago, Nicholas Cholis was hired to focus on employment law and work closely with the HR department. This allowed Cairo to step back from those matters and concentrate on national litigation, the workers’ compensation program, client contract negotiations and landlord deals for Elite’s branch offices.

For his first two and a half years with Elite, Cairo delved deeper into the workers’ compensation program, investigating claims, examining the company’s communication with employees, and establishing partnerships with vendors in the industry. Cairo aimed to improve communication with workers, particularly non-native English speakers, as part of the company’s commitment to valuing and caring for its employees.

In Cairo’s determination to change the perception that everyone was viewed skeptically, he emphasized putting the company’s arm around its workers and not blaming them for their accidents. Cairo also acknowledged the presence of predatory providers who take advantage of vulnerable workers and advocated for ensuring they receive the best healthcare possible.

“There was a disconnect between ownership’s belief that our workers should be treated with dignity and respect and how Elite’s partners were handling our injured workers,” said Cairo.

He then reestablished the importance of treating all workers, especially injured ones, with the dignity and respect they deserved.

Marc Cairo | General Counsel | Elite Staffing

Over time, Cairo’s responsibilities expanded to include other areas of corporate work, such as contracts, negotiations, legislative lobbying, and real estate matters. Coming into a family-owned business presented its own challenges, and Cairo had to overcome growing pains and gain the ownership group’s trust to expand his authority.

While Cairo acknowledges the importance of technology-driven solutions like AI-driven contracts, he believes his team should focus on other pressing issues that take precedence within the company. He strongly believes that the most productive worker is happy and emphasizes the importance of maintaining organizational morale.

Looking ahead, Cairo plans to focus on recent changes in Illinois law, such as equal pay for equal work, and spearhead compliance action plans for the company. His goal is to ensure that Elite Staffing continues to provide a safe and supportive work environment for its employees.

Loving the law

Cairo’s dad and stepmother were CPAs who encouraged him not to follow in their footsteps. While in high school in Highland Park, Illinois, Cairo participated in the Model UN program, which included debates and arguing his point in front of classmates and teachers.

He earned an undergraduate degree in speech communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and says he always had his eye on law school—he earned a J.D. from the DePaul University College of Law.

Following law school, Cairo thought he might go into public service and be a politician, but he chose a different path as a defense attorney in the workers’ compensation field.

Marc Cairo | General Counsel | Elite Staffing

“I built a successful book of business at a young age, and by the time I was in my mid-40s, I had been a bunch of different defense firms and found myself at a crossroads,” Cairo recalls.

Cairo’s journey to becoming the general counsel at Elite Staffing involved a significant career shift from private practice to an in-house role. He chose the quality of life offered by an in-house position over the demands of private practice.

Today, Cairo finds fulfillment in his work, appreciates the ownership group’s support, and values the opportunity to see his team grow and succeed. He’s been married for 27 years and has watched his two children grow into the young adults they are today.

“I don’t regret leaving private practice for one second, and I would be lucky if I could call Elite Staffing my work home for the rest of my career,” Cairo says.

View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: December 27, 2023

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