Fourth Circuit Adopts More Liberal Joint Employment Test Than NLRB’s Browning-Ferris Decision
(This article originally appeared in Corporate Counsel on March 1, 2017. Click here to view the original.)
Are 59 years of joint employment rulings all wrong? Yes, says a federal appeals court in a landmark Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) decision issued in late January.
Relying on a 1958 Department of Labor (DOL) regulation, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has rewritten the test for joint employment, defining the concept so expansively that every outsourced and staffing agency relationship might be deemed joint employment under the FLSA. The decision in Salinas v. Commercial Interiors, issued unanimously by a three-judge panel (all Obama appointees), takes a more radical position on joint employment than even the NLRB took in its controversial 2015 Browning-Ferris decision.
The Court of Appeals concludes that everybody – including the DOL itself – has been misinterpreting the DOL’s joint employment regulation for 59 years.
Is that possible? Can the Court literally mean that? Or is this an example of the adage, “bad facts make bad law”? The facts in Salinas suggest there was probably a joint employment relationship under any test. It remains to be seen how this test will be applied and whether decades of court decisions and DOL guidance will truly be disregarded.
Meanwhile, employers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia are immediately and directly impacted, since these are the states that the Fourth Circuit covers.