Wyatt Employment Law Report


With New NLRB Proposed Rule, Browning-Ferris’s Days May Be Numbered

By Thomas E. Travis

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently proposed a new rule to scale back a controversial Board decision from 2015 regarding the appropriate test for whether a franchisor and franchisees are “joint employers” under the National Labor Relations Act. This would directly roll back the NLRB decision in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, where the Board extended joint employment to circumstances where a company has only “indirect” control over another company’s workers, overturning a prior ruling that required “direct and immediate control.”

The new proposed rule would establish that two entities become joint employers “only if the two employers share or codetermine the employee’s essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, discipline, supervision, and direction.” This is, of course, much closer to the original “direct and immediate control” standard, with even more ascertainable guidelines to assist the Board in reaching its determination. And contra Browning-Ferris, this standard is much more difficult for challengers to meet in making claims for joint employment.

Should the proposed rule take effect, commenters are somewhat divided over the impact of Browning-Ferris on litigation. Some observers note that the standard was infrequently invoked and seemed to not impact labor litigation nearly as much as its detractors contend. On the other hand, some critics rebut that the impact is felt not just in litigation, but in business planning and economic development: the broad standard invoked in Browning-Ferris required entities to closely evaluate every workplace scenario in attempt to avoid the vague strictures of the NLRB’s decision, and the prior rule seems to disincentivize franchising and other cost-saving business relationships.

Employers will most likely welcome the proposed change. If anything, the proposed change removes the latent ambiguities from Browning-Ferris, and replaces it with a clear standard to ease future business planning going forward.


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NLRB’s Browning-Ferris Industries Decision to be Reviewed by Federal Court of Appeals

By George J. Miller

iStock_000008223650_FullIn the past two weeks there have been some important developments in the ongoing case against Browning-Ferris Industries of California (“BFI”).  Recall that in August 2015, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision in a union election case filed by Teamsters Local 350 against BFI and its labor contractor, Lead Point Business Services.  The Teamsters sought to represent a unit of employees in certain job classifications at a BFI recycling facility in California who were all supplied by Lead Point.  The Teamsters’ election petition sought a decision that BFI and Lead Point jointly employed these employees, but the NLRB Regional Director rejected the Union’s position, finding that under NLRB precedent at that time, BFI and Lead Point were not a joint employer.  The Regional Director directed an election which was held on April 25, 2014.  However, the employees’ ballots were impounded while the Teamsters sought and obtained review of the Regional Director’s decision by the NLRB.

In its August 2015 decision on review, a three member majority of the five member Board overruled the Board precedent relied upon by the Regional Director and found that BFI and Lead Point were a joint employer of these employees.  Although Lead Point hired and paid the wages and benefits of the employees, the Board concluded that BFI jointly employed them because it had significant Continue reading


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NLRB May Be Expanding Definition of Joint Employer

By Edwin S. Hopson

On May 13, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (Members Hirozawa and Schiffer; Member Johnson, dissenting) announced that in Browning-Ferris Industries and Leadpoint Business Services, Case No. 32-RC-109684, a union representation election case, that it had granted review of the regional director’s decision in order to determine if the Board’s current joint employer standard should be modified. The current Board consists of three Democratic and two Republican Members. One can assume that the Democratic Members wish to loosen the standard so that union bargaining units can be expanded to include persons formerly considered independent contracts or employees of another employer.

The Board has invited the filing of briefs by not only the parties but also interested amici. The issues identified to be addressed are:

  1. Under the Board’s current joint-employer standard, as articulated in TLI, Inc., 271 NLRB 798 (1984), enfd. mem. 772 F.2d 894 (3d Cir. 1985), and Laerco Transportation, 269 NLRB 324 (1984), is Leadpoint Business Services the sole employer of the petitioned-for employees?
  2. Should the Board adhere to its existing joint-employer standard or adopt a new standard? What considerations should influence the Board’s decision in this regard?
  3. If the Board adopts a new standard for determining joint-employer status, what should that standard be? If it involves the application of a multifactor test, what factors should be examined? What should be the basis or rationale for such a standard?

The briefs may be filed on or before June 26, 2014.