The National Labor Relations Board issued a much-anticipated decision on Thursday, overruling its controversial 2015 Browning-Ferris decision that unions and employees argued drastically expanded the definition and scope of the Board’s joint-employer doctrine. In Browning-Ferris, the Board departed from decades of precedent and held that entities who merely possessed—as opposed to directly and immediately exercised—control over workers would be deemed joint employers for purposes of assessing liability under the National Labor Relations Act. The Board used the Browning-Ferris decision to expand its reach under the joint-employer doctrine to include, for example, companies that relied on staffing agencies and in some cases, parent companies that did not exercise immediate or direct control over a subsidiary’s workers, but had the potential authority to affect certain terms and conditions of employment. The Browning-Ferris decision faced heavy criticism from employers as well as an appeal of the decision itself to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a press release issued this morning, the Department of Labor has announced that it is withdrawing two administrative interpretations issued by the Department of Labor under the Obama administration in 2015 and 2016 relating to misclassification of independent contractors and joint employment. These two administrative interpretations sought to expand the definition of employee, thereby increasing the possibility of misclassification cases, and, as some argued, expanding the concept of joint employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While this is a welcomed announcement for employers, the Department emphasized in the release that the withdrawal “does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” This is the first effort by the Department of Labor under the Trump administration to dismantle some of the more controversial policies issued by the Department in the Obama-era. The decision to withdraw these administrative interpretations may also signal that the Department intends to return to the opinion letter writing process, making compliance much simpler for employers.
At the request of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the New York Court of Appeals recently answered several questions regarding liability under the New York Human Rights Law Section 296(15)—which prohibits denying employment on the basis of criminal convictions when doing so violates New York Correction Law Article 23-A—and Section 296(6)—which prohibits aiding and abetting such discrimination.
Published in Law360
Much has been written about the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial Browning-Ferris decision that significantly expanded the scope of joint employer liability under the National Labor Relations Act. But virtually no attention has been given to the Fourth Circuit’s recent panel decision in Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, Inc., which creates an altogether new and incredibly broad joint employment standard under the Fair Labor Standards Act that makes the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris joint employment standard seem temperate at best.
On March 9, 2017, the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia heard oral argument in the case entitled Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., d/b/a/ Browning-Ferris Newby Island Recyclery v. National Labor Relations Board, Nos. 16-1028, 16-1063 and 16-1064. (Our prior blogs about this case can be found here.) This appeal challenges the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) new and imprecise standard for determining whether companies are “joint employers” for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. The new standard, first issued in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015), abandons consideration of a company’s direct and immediate control over employees in favor of a fact-specific approach that focuses more on “reserved” or “indirect” control.
Published in Law360
The National Labor Relations Board has an 80-plus year history of administering federal labor law and regulating labor-management relations in the United States. Formed in 1935 by the passage of the original Wagner Act, the board’s primary obligations are to oversee the formation of collective bargaining units, to investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, and to establish legal precedent through regulations and binding case precedents. In carrying out its responsibilities, the board is generally expected to act as a neutral arbiter of facts and cases.
Much has been written about the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial Browning-Ferris decision that significantly expanded the scope of joint employer liability under the National Labor Relations Act. But virtually no attention has been given to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent panel decision in Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, Inc., No. 15-1915 (4th Cir. 2017), which creates an altogether new and incredibly broad joint employment standard under the Fair Labor Standards Act that makes the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris joint employment standard seem temperate at best. Absent a successful appeal to the US Supreme Court or Department of Labor intervention, the Salinas decision could open the floodgates to joint employment FLSA litigation and liability within the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina) and beyond.
On March 9, 2017, a federal appeals court in Washington, DC will hear argument in a challenge to the National Labor Relations Board’s controversial standard, announced in August 2015, for finding two businesses to be joint employers, and thus responsible for each other’s legal liabilities on the labor front. The labor community is keeping a close eye on the case. If the NLRB’s standard is upheld, businesses across the country will face the prospect of sharing labor and employment risk with their subcontractors, supply chain partners, and maybe even their franchisees.
On February 14th 2017, Hunton labor partner Kurt Larkin will present testimony at the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions hearing on “Restoring Balance and Fairness to the National Labor Relations Board.” Kurt will discuss a variety of NLRB issues, including joint employer standards, ambush elections and micro unions. The hearing will take place at 10:00am EST and can be viewed live here.
Originally published by Construction Business Owner
By now, the employer community is well aware of the wide-ranging implications of Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 N.L.R.B. No. 186 (2015) (Browning-Ferris)—a decision that upended decades of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) precedent and dramatically expanded the definition of “joint employer” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). On August 16, 2016, in Retro Environmental, Inc./Green JobWorks, LLC , 364 N.L.R.B. No. 70, 2016 WL 4376615 (August 16, 2016) ( Retro), the NLRB applied the full weight of Browning-Ferris and concluded that Retro Environmental and Green JobWorks are “joint employers” under the NLRA. The NLRB also made it more difficult for employers to prove that they have ceased their joint-employer relationship. Retro is the latest in a line of NLRB decisions, issued since Browning-Ferris, which emphasize the need for employers to scrutinize their third-party business relationships for joint-employer risk.