Tag Archives: joint employer

DOL May Change Its Approach to Joint Employers

This week the United States Department of Labor announced a proposed rule to revise and clarify its  joint employer test.

The Department proposes a clear, four-factor test that would be used to consider whether the potential joint employer actually exercises the power to:

  • hire or fire the employee;
  • supervise and control the employee’s work schedules or conditions of employment;
  • determine the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
  • maintain the employee’s employment records.

The proposal also includes a set of examples for comment that would further help clarify joint employer status.  I have set forth two of the examples below which illustrate when joint employer status will and will not exist under the proposed new rule:

    Example:  An office park company hires a janitorial services company to clean the office park building after hours. According to a contractual agreement with the office park and the janitorial company, the office park agrees to pay the janitorial company a fixed fee for these services and reserves the right to supervise the janitorial employees in their performance of those cleaning services. However, office park personnel do not set the janitorial employees’ pay rates or individual schedules and do not in fact supervise the workers’ performance of their work in any way. Is the office park a joint employer of the janitorial employees?

    Application:  Under these facts, the office park is not a joint employer of the janitorial employees because it does not hire or fire the employees, determine their rate or method of payment, or exercise control over their conditions of employment. The office park’s reserved contractual right to control the employee’s conditions of employment does not demonstrate that it is a joint employer.


    Example:  A country club contracts with a landscaping company to maintain its golf course. The contract does not give the country club authority to hire or fire the landscaping company’s employees or to supervise their work on the country club premises. However, in practice a club official oversees the work of employees of the landscaping company by sporadically assigning them tasks throughout each workweek, providing them with periodic instructions during each workday, and keeping intermittent records of their work. Moreover, at the country club’s direction, the landscaping company agrees to terminate an individual worker for failure to follow the club official’s instructions. Is the country club a joint employer of the landscaping employees?

    Application:  Under these facts, the country club is a joint employer of the landscaping employees because the club exercises sufficient control, both direct and indirect, over the terms and conditions of their employment. The country club directly supervises the landscaping employees’ work and determines their schedules on what amounts to a regular basis. This routine control is further established by the fact that the country club indirectly fired one of landscaping employees for not following its directions.


The proposed rule will be available for public comment for a period of time before it, or any version of it, takes effect.  Here’s hoping the clear test that is set forth above is adopted, and employers get the clarity they need to accurately assess whether they are or are not joint employers due to the amount of control exercised.

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A few months ago I wrote a blog post which discussed how companies that use temporary services or subcontractors can, in certain circumstances be held to be the joint employer of the employees of the temporary service or subcontractor.  You can read that blog post here.  Earlier this month the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit applied the factors I discussed in that blog post to hold that a general contractor for a construction site in Memphis, Tennessee was the joint employer of one of its subcontractors’ employees.

In EEOC and Maurice Knox v. Skanska U.S.A. Building, Inc. the EEOC and Knox sued Skanska alleging racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII.  Knox was employed by a subcontractor on the construction site named C-1 Inc. (“C-1”).   Despite this fact the EEOC and Knox argued that Skanska was Knox’s joint employer.  The District Court disagreed with the Plaintiffs and granted summary judgment to Skanska.  On appeal the 6th Circuit reversed.

The 6th Circuit held that Skanska was a joint employer because it could “share or co-determine those matters governing essential terms and conditions of employment.”  In making this finding the Court focused on the following facts:

  • Skanska could remove Knox and other C-1 employees from the jobsite if the employee was “incompetent, disorderly or otherwise unsatisfactory”
  • Skanska routinely exercised its ability to direct and supervise Knox’s performance.
  • Skanska set Knox’s hours and daily assignments.
  • Skanska assigned Knox’s supervisors.
  • Skanska responded to any complaints asserted by Knox.
  • Skanska was responsible for responding to any complaints asserted by Knox and did not consult with C-1 about those complaints.
  • Skanska had Knox sign a document on Skanska letterhead setting forth his job responsibilities.
  • Skanska repeatedly removed C-1’s personnel from the jobsite without any challenge from C-1.

The Skanska decision reinforces that when a company exercises the right to control subcontractor and temporary employees the company will most likely be considered a joint employer of those employees.  Employers should keep this in mind when making staffing decisions and, if controlling the temporary employee or subcontractor’s employee is not important, take the appropriate sets to eliminate or minimize the right to control in an effort to avoid a successful joint employer argument.

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