Back-office staffs are usually hit hard when banks merge. But after the pink slips are handed out, banks sometimes find they need more expertise than they're left with - but are loathe to rehire full-time employees.

One solution is to retain skilled temporary workers to handle conversions and other big projects. But Irene Cohen cautions that if those independent contractors stay on long enough at the bank, and take on permanent responsibilities, it can attract the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. Under ERISA, it's illegal to move long-term workers from job to job, or to lay them off to avoid offering benefits.

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