Two years after the National Labor Relations Board’s decision in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), which overturned 30 years of precedent, 57 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, supported by business owner advocacy group Workforce Fairness Institute, are urging the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS & Education Committee on Appropriations “to include a one-year hold on the NLRB’s harmful and confusing definition of joint employers [in Browning-Ferris] in the FY18 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations legislation.” In a letter dated April 5, 2017, to the subcommittee Chairman and Ranking Member, the 57 legislators cited a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that warned the decision will result in decreased business values, increased operational and legal costs, less growth, and fewer jobs.
The NLRB had ruled a company could be held liable for the management and actions of workers employed by another employer, even if the company does not directly control those employees. For example, under the Browning-Ferris standard, liability for actions taken by individual franchisees could be imputed to franchisors even if they do not directly supervise or control the franchisee’s employees. Similar liability could be imposed upon contractors in connection with a subcontractor’s employees.
Browning-Ferris has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; a decision should be issued during 2017.
A one-year hold on the NLRB joint employers standard likely will require the support of 60 Senators in order to avoid a filibuster, a difficult task in the current Congress. More likely is reversal of Browning-Ferris by a fully constituted NLRB with a 3-2 pro-business majority after the two existing vacancies are filled by President Donald Trump’s nominees.