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Congress Ponders Joint Employer Bill

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives would narrow the definition of who is a joint employer, and is intended to end Obama-era policies regarding labor and wage laws.

Although other labor law reform measures have been introduced, and some enacted, since President Trump took office, this bill is expected to garner strong opposition from unions and their supporters.

Sponsored by Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and other House members, the bill seeks to overturn the National Labor Relations Board’s 2015 Browning-Ferris decision broadening the legal criteria for joint employment.

That decision, and another one made by the Department of Labor dealing with responsibility for wage and hour violations, drew criticism from businesses that rely on the franchise business model, and others who use temporary staffing agencies to meet their personnel needs.

The bill, titled the Save Local Business Act, is short and to the point. Only two pages long it declares that joint employer status exists “only if such person directly, actually and immediately, and not in a limited and routine manner, exercises significant control over the essential terms and conditions of employment.”

The bill says significant control would include “hiring employees, discharging employees, determining individual employee rates of pay and benefits, day-to-day supervision of employees, assigning individual work schedules, positions, and tasks, and administering employee discipline.”

At a July hearing held by the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), witnesses testified about how confusion over the joint employer standard has stifled the plans of small business owners who were hoping to expand.

The bill’s proponents say it is needed to eliminate future uncertainty for business owners by taking the issue away from federal regulators, whose priorities can shift with each administration.

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