Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) announced a much-anticipated proposed regulation to establish a rule-driven standard for determining joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The Board’s proposed rule represents a return to a more common-law-centered understanding of joint-employer relationships, establishing joint employer status based on the exercise of substantial direct and immediate control. The Board’s announcement explained that its proposed rule, which is subject to revision after public comment, best serves the NLRA’s purposes by imposing bargaining obligations only on those employers that actually play an active role in establishing essential terms and conditions of employment. In other words, a related business partner not actively participating in employment decisions (such as setting employee wages, benefits, and other essential terms and conditions of employment) ought not be drawn into the collective bargaining process. The Board stated:
An employer . . . may be considered a joint employer of a separate employer’s employees only if the two employers share or codetermine the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction. A putative joint employer must possess and actually exercise substantial direct and immediate control over the employees’ essential terms and conditions of employment in a manner that is not limited and routine.
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