The Labor Department introduced a proposed regulation today that would make it harder to hold businesses jointly liable when their franchisees or contractors violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The DOL proposal would use a four-part test to determine whether a business is jointly liable under the 1938 law, which governs minimum wage and overtime. The test would weigh whether the business has the power to hire and fire; to supervise schedules and “conditions of employment”; to set pay, and to maintain employment records.
The proposal would weaken an Obama-era DOL guidance that said a business need have only indirect control over employees to be held jointly liable.
“The proposed changes would provide courts with a clearer method for determining joint employer status, promote greater uniformity among court decisions, and reduce litigation,” said Keith Sonderling, acting administrator for DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, in a written statement.
According to POLITICO, three liberal groups today filed a legal complaint about a Labor Department proposal that would allow 16- and 17-year-old workers to operate medical patient lifts unsupervised.
“The proposal contains false and misleading information about the need for and the impact of the Department’s proposed changes to child labor policies, and it fails the transparency standards embedded in the guidelines,” the groups wrote in a complaint to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting White House chief of staff.
The letter is signed by the National Employment Law Project, the Service International Employees Union, and the Child Labor Coalition. In a November letter to Acosta, Democrats complained that DOL relied on a SurveyMonkey poll with fewer than two dozen respondents. The groups also noted that DOL did not make the full survey results public, despite requests from Democrats.
“Hiding key information from the public is clear evidence that DOL is also completely failing to meet even the most basic principles of transparency embedded in the DOL guidelines,” the groups wrote. “There is clearly a pattern at the Department’s Wage and Hour Division of hiding information that is inconvenient and does not support the Department’s position.”
A DOL spokesperson declined to comment.
The complaint comes amid an inspector general investigation of DOL’s rulemaking process. In a Jan. 25 letter to Democrats, the IG wrote he would investigate whether the agency “deviated from agency regulatory and data quality requirements.”
For those who believe worker centers are nothing but fronts for organized labor, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Bloomberg and POLITICO are both reporting that the Department of Labor is investigating whether some worker centers should be defined as labor organizations under current labor law.
The Labor Department is investigating several worker organizing centers to determine if they are labor organizations, according to a letter to GOP lawmakers obtained by Bloomberg Law.
But rather than create a new legal test for classifying worker groups as the House members requested, the DOL said its Office of Labor-Management Standards will review the facts on a case-by-case basis.
The Labor Department is looking at whether certain worker centers should be regulated as labor organizations, according to a March letter sent to Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).
In the letter, first reported by Bloomberg Law, the agency told GOP lawmakers it could not issue a blanket rule on worker centers due to their variance in structure and activities. DOL said it could not reveal which worker centers are under investigation but said it would look into them on a case-by-case basis if there was “a complaint or some other credible indication.”
“The Department takes seriously allegations that organizations covered by the [Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act] are not filing the required reports,” the letter reads.
Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce singled out several workers centers it believed would meet the definition of a labor organization, including the Retail Action Project and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. After Republican lawmakers blasted worker centers during a House hearing on Thursday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) introduced legislation that would force worker centers to follow the same reporting requirements as unions.