Most people have likely never heard the term “joint employer” used in the context of their employment. This term, however, is very important for employees and can have a significant impact on whether they have any protections under wage, labor and discrimination laws.
Generally speaking the term “joint employer” is used to describe a situation when two different employers are involved in an employee's job. A good example of this would be a nurse who was technically employed by a staffing company but was sent to various hospitals to perform his or her work. On the employee's behalf we would say that both the staffing company and the hospital were the nurse's employer, and therefore could be held responsible if the nurse did not receive a fair wage, was subjected to discrimination at work, or either employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. The employers, however, would not agree, and would likely point at one another as being the actual employer.
A “Joint Employer” must be determined on a case by case basis
What constitutes a joint employer is generally something that must be considered on a case by case basis. The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently did its part to help employees, by trying to set some ground rules for courts to use when considering whether two employers are “joint employers” for the purpose of potential legal responsibility toward the employee.
In its decision, the NLRB confirmed that the most important factor to consider is whether the employer exercised significant control over the employee's day to day job responsibilities.
Control is the key factor in determining whether an employer is a “joint employer”
Practically, as an employee it is important to keep in mind that employers may be “joint” if each of them had significant control over the day to day aspects of your job. Did they tell you when to come and go? What to wear? What to do? These are all important considerations that may help establish that an entity is a “joint employer”, which could in the end make a very significant difference in whether there is a potential lawsuit for illegal or improper employment practices.
If you have questions about discrimination or unfair labor give us a call. We handle lots of these cases and are happy to help.