On October 26, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board issued a final rule to replace and essentially reverse the joint employer test issued under the Trump Administration. The new test drastically lowers the standard for companies to qualify as joint employers, making them responsible for labor violations and saddling them with obligations with respect to union negotiations. The final rule, which rescinds and replaces the prior regulation, is set to take effect on December 26, 2023, on a prospective basis only.
The 2020 rule required that a company have “substantial direct and immediate control” over the “essential terms or conditions” of a worker’s employment in order to be held liable as a joint employer. In a major “about face”, the new rule provides that even reserved, unexercised, or indirect control, such as through an intermediary, over one or more terms or conditions of employment is sufficient to establish joint employment. The Board published an “exhaustive list” of seven categories of terms or conditions that it will consider “essential” for purposes of the joint employer inquiry:
- Wages, benefits, and other compensation;
- Hours of work and scheduling;
- Assignment of duties to be performed;
- Supervision of the performed duties;
- Work rules and directions governing the manner, means, and methods of the performance of duties and the grounds for discipline;
- Tenure of the employment, including hiring and discharge; and
- Working conditions related to the safety and health of employees.