The Trump Administration this week made good on its promise to roll back its Department of Labor’s stance regarding protections for employees who work for more than one company.
Formally adopting its proposed interpretation of “joint employment,” the Department set forth criteria for when it thinks a company is sufficiently involved in a worker’s employment that it should be liable for wage and hour violations suffered by that worker.
Not surprisingly, this new standard is much more stringent that what is being used by most courts, and what the Department’s interpretation was of joint employment under the previous administration.
By restricting a finding of joint employment to those companies who hire or fire, pay, keep employment records, and control schedules and job conditions, it will be harder for the Department to enforce wage standards in workplaces where higher level corporations contract out responsibility to other entities.
Fortunately, because the rule is arguably interpretive rather than legislative, it may not be entitled to much deference by the courts. It should also be relatively straightforward for a future administration to return to a more common-sense interpretation. Worker advocates are considering their options.
Carol Brooke is a senior attorney with the N.C. Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project. Policy Watch is also a Justice Center project.