On April 1, the US Department of Labor proposed a new rule seeking to narrow the application of joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A finding of joint employer status can impose joint and several liability on a business along with the hiring employer for the employee’s wages. By narrowing the test, the proposal brings potential good news to franchise businesses in particular.

The proposal outlines a “four-factor balancing test” for the Department to apply collectively in its assessment of whether a business is a joint employer with another.


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U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced in a June 7, 2017 press release that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has withdrawn two of its recent administrator’s interpretations. One of the administrator’s interpretations, issued in 2015, focused on the misclassification of employees as independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and indicated

Internal pay audits are rarely enjoyable. Depending on the scope, these audits can be complex and require detailed analysis.  However, in the current legal climate, an internal audit can be extremely valuable and greatly reduce, or even eliminate, potential liability for wage and hour claims as well as pay equity claims.  As previously reported on this blog, increased scrutiny into pay equity discrimination, changes in EEO-1 reporting requirements, the Department of Labor’s joint employment efforts, and the updated FLSA exemption rules continue to place companies at greater risk of government audits, fines, and lawsuits.

Many employers may have already reviewed and updated their policies in anticipation of the changes to the “white collar” FLSA exemptions, which go into effect on December 1, 2016. But if your company has not yet done so, or to the extent you have not conducted a more comprehensive internal audit, your company should strongly consider doing so as soon as possible for several reasons.
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On August 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor and Doctors Associates Inc. (Subway Restaurants) announced a voluntary agreement formalizing their ongoing collaboration.  This agreement is a first of its kind and seeks to ensure that franchise owners have the tools necessary to comply with wage and hour laws.  Since 2012, Subway has made available a platform for the DOL to provide training and resources to franchisees.  Despite the DOL’s efforts, other companies have reportedly been reluctant to enter into similar agreements due to fears that other government agencies will use such an agreement as evidence of a joint employer relationship.  Interestingly, Subway has been collaborating with the DOL for over three years and although this collaboration has been very much in the public eye, no agency has indicated that such a relationship would make them a joint employer.  The DOL hopes the fact that Subway, the world’s largest franchisor, entered into the compliance agreement will encourage other companies to follow suit.  Given the various government agencies’ joint employer efforts, all companies, whether franchisors or not, should analyze their own specific circumstances before entering into a similar agreement.
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