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Top Compliance Issues Security Firms Should Avoid

The Top Compliance Issues Every Physical Security Firm Should Avoid

As states review their security industry regulation and make important changes, there has been some increased scrutiny on security firm compliance. Security firms that aren’t aware of certain compliance requirements or don’t know that requirements apply to their industry can be at risk. Not only can failing to comply lead to fines or revoked licenses, it can also be grounds for employees and others to sue. Here’s what to watch for to avoid these types of risks!

Localized Licensing

We’ve discussed before that security firms are largely regulated by state rules, and that states can vary greatly in how they handle security guards and what they require. However, licensing requirements may also vary based on municipalities, especially for specific kinds of jobs or venues. Security firms that don’t check for licensing compliance at both the city and the state level could run into trouble if they miss requirements. That could lead to fines or even lawsuits, and quickly end security jobs where firms don’t have the right licensing.

This can also become an issue if a security firm makes poor hiring decisions. Guards should have proper licensing according to state requirements, and if they will be armed, they’ll need additional, up-to-date licensing for using a firearm. Past experience in law enforcement or the military is no substitute for this type of licensing.

Ignoring the Difference Between Private and Public Property

Security guards should always be aware that rules may be different on private vs. public property, including what they may be authorized to do. A common example is trespassing when a security firm is hired to monitor a neighborhood or apartment complex. Private property comes with its own set of protections, and guards that ignore that could lead to a firm losing its license. Likewise, public spaces may be under certain local government rules or requirements that private property doesn’t have.

Improper Labor Practices

This is a broad category that’s best summarized as, “Mistreating workers.” In a security firm, that can take several different forms. It could be blatant disregard for security guard safety, or refusal to pay security guards their salaries (this happened in some firms during the pandemic). It could mean refusing to give security guards necessary breaks according to labor laws or making them work shifts for too long or too frequently. Some security firms have been caught hiring undocumented workers under the table and mistreating them, leading to investigations and hefty fines.

Issues like these are being underlined by an increased interest in security guard livelihood, and guards paying more attention to their own value and workplace needs. All security firms should be well aware of local labor laws and how they affect employee management.

Ignoring Health and Safety Requirements

In certain situations, security guards must meet health and safety regulations while doing their jobs. We saw this frequently during COVID when guards were required to mask up in certain areas. Additional requirements are also very common in hospitals and other healthcare areas. Guards who ignore these requirements could not only lose the firm business, but possibly result in fines and other complications.

Making Employees Pay for Certain Parts of the Job

This is seen a lot with security firms that put unnecessary costs on their security guards without paying them proper compensation. According to the Department of Labor, many security firms are not allowed to make their guards pay for their own uniforms, weapons, and tools if those expenses would cut into things like overtime wages earned, or if it would drop them below the minimum wage requirements. This also applies to maintenance like paying to dry clean a uniform.

Not Recording Hours of Work

In the security industry, all actual hours of work must be accurately recorded. Some firms try workarounds to avoid this, so they don’t have to pay as much overtime as they otherwise would. This is illegal and can land businesses in a lot of hot water, which is why it’s such a good idea to have an easy way to record worked hours that all guards can use. It’s also important to note that “clocking in” on the job begins before the security guard arrives at the location. Work time must also include time spent traveling between work sites.

Not Calling Law Enforcement

We have taken an in-depth look at these issues before, but it’s worth noting that security guards cannot take on the role of a law enforcement office (even if they have experience in such a role). Security guards must call on-duty law officers who are authorized to make arrests and use force, if necessary, they cannot legally try to do that themselves. That can easily result in lawsuits, and state regulatory boards are likely to come down hard on firms found doing this. It’s yet another reason that proper, ongoing training is important.


Reminders about compliance issues help keep requirements fresh. It’s also a good idea to review any local updates or changes to regulations that could impact how you treat employees or what security guards are allowed to do. As always, we’ll keep you updated on the latest trends we see in the industry and how firms may want to respond.

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