In February 2020, the NLRB finally unveiled its long-awaited joint-employer rule governing joint-employer status under the NLRA. The final rule returns the test for determining joint employment to the standard the Board applied for several decades before the 2015 Browning-Ferris decision. The test set forth by the new joint-employer rule provides that a business is a joint employer only if it has “substantial direct and immediate control” over another company’s workers and actually exercises that control. While this is no doubt a welcome relief for employers who routinely contract with subcontractors and staffing companies, it is important to note the limited scope and that this rule does not impact joint-employer tests applied under other employment laws. The proposed rule was initially released in late 2018 and ultimately generated nearly 30,000 public comments (see our coverage here).
Although the rule is an employer-friendly change, employees who are terminated for engaging in protected concerted actives will continue to have a claim for relief against their primary employer. Similarly, union organizing efforts can continue amongst temporary employees as they have for years. Bargaining will continue to occur as it always has between employers and their employees’ union representatives. The labor movement, however, is likely disappointed by the demise of the 2015 Browning-Ferris rule. For years, unions have chaffed at the prohibition against secondary boycotts contained in the Taft Hartley Act of 1947. The 2015 Browning-Ferris rule allowed a backdoor repeal of a significant portion of the secondary boycott ban with its loose definition of joint employer.