The U.S. Department of Labor issues more guidance regarding Agricultural related employee v. contractor relationships! When the DOL issues this type of detailed guidance, employers should review carefully!

January 21, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Posted in agriculture, discrimination, Employee, Employer, Employment Law, FLSA, H2-A, harassment, Harvesting, Legal, New employment laws/amendments, retaliation, Unemployment, wage & hour, Workers' Compensation | Leave a comment

This is directly from the U.S. DOL’s webpage – hot off the press!

Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2016-1 (PDF)
January 20, 2016
Issued by ADMINISTRATOR DAVID WEIL

SUBJECT: Joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

Through its enforcement efforts, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) regularly encounters situations where more than one business is involved in the work being performed and where workers may have two or more employers. More and more, businesses are varying organizational and staffing models by, for instance, sharing employees or using third-party management companies, independent contractors, staffing agencies, or labor providers. As a result, the traditional employment relationship of one employer employing one employee is less prevalent.1 WHD encounters these employment scenarios in all industries, including the construction, agricultural, janitorial, warehouse and logistics, staffing, and hospitality industries.

The growing variety and number of business models and labor arrangements have made joint employment more common.2 In view of these evolving employment scenarios, the Administrator believes that additional guidance will be helpful concerning joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201, et seq., and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), 29 U.S.C. 1801, et seq.3
Whether an employee has more than one employer is important in determining employees’ rights and employers’ obligations under the FLSA and MSPA. It is a longstanding principle under both statutes that an employee can have two or more employers for the work that he or she is performing. When two or more employers jointly employ an employee, the employee’s hours worked for all of the joint employers during the workweek are aggregated and considered as one employment, including for purposes of calculating whether overtime pay is due. Additionally, when joint employment exists, all of the joint employers are jointly and severally liable for compliance with the FLSA and MSPA.4 Where joint employment exists, one employer may also be larger and more established, with a greater ability to implement policy or systemic changes to ensure compliance. Thus, WHD may consider joint employment to achieve statutory coverage, financial recovery, and future compliance, and to hold all responsible parties accountable for their legal obligations.

Certainly, not every subcontractor, farm labor contractor, or other labor provider relationship will result in joint employment. This Administrator’s Interpretation (AI) provides guidance on identifying those scenarios in which two or more employers jointly employ an employee and are thus jointly liable for compliance under the FLSA or MSPA.5 This AI first discusses the broad scope of the employment relationship under the FLSA and MSPA. It then discusses the concepts of horizontal and vertical joint employment and relevant joint employment regulations.

Horizontal joint employment exists where the employee has employment relationships with two or more employers and the employers are sufficiently associated or related with respect to the employee such that they jointly employ the employee. The analysis focuses on the relationship of the employers to each other. This AI explains that guidance provided in the FLSA joint employment regulation – which focuses on the relationship between potential joint employers – is useful when analyzing potential horizontal joint employment cases.

Vertical joint employment exists where the employee has an employment relationship with one employer (typically a staffing agency, subcontractor, labor provider, or other intermediary employer) and the economic realities show that he or she is economically dependent on, and thus employed by, another entity involved in the work. This other employer, who typically contracts with the intermediary employer to receive the benefit of the employee’s labor, would be the potential joint employer. Where there is potential vertical joint employment, the analysis focuses on the economic realities of the working relationship between the employee and the potential joint employer. This AI explains that guidance provided in the MSPA joint employment regulation is useful when analyzing potential vertical joint employment. The structure and nature of the relationship(s) at issue in the case, reflecting potentially horizontal or vertical joint employment or both, should determine how each case is analyzed.
I. The FLSA and MSPA Broadly Define the Employment Relationship and Thus the Scope of Joint Employment

The scope of employment relationships subject to the protections of the FLSA and MSPA is broad. The FLSA defines “employee” as “any individual employed by an employer,” 29 U.S.C. 203(e)(1), and “employer” as including “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee,” 29 U.S.C. 203(d). The FLSA’s definition of “employ” “includes to suffer or permit to work.” 29 U.S.C. 203(g). The “suffer or permit” definition of employment is “‘the broadest definition that has ever been included in any one act.’” U.S. v. Rosenwasser, 323 U.S. 360, 363 n.3 (1945) (quoting statement of Sen. Hugo Black, 81 Cong. Rec. 7657 (1938)). MSPA defines “employ” in exactly the same way as the FLSA, and the scope of employment relationships under MSPA is thus the same as it is under the FLSA. See 29 U.S.C. 1802(5) (“The term ‘employ’ has the meaning given such term under [the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 203(g)].”); 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(1); see also 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(2)-(3) (the terms “employer” and “employee” under MSPA are also given their meaning as found in the FLSA).

The FLSA and MSPA both “specifically cover ‘joint employment’ relationships.” Antenor v. D & S Farms, 88 F.3d 925, 929 (11th Cir. 1996). The FLSA regulations explicitly state that a single worker may be “an employee to two or more employers at the same time.” 29 C.F.R. 791.2(a); see also Baystate Alt. Staffing, Inc. v. Herman, 163 F.3d 668, 675 (1st Cir. 1998) (“The FLSA contemplates several simultaneous employers, each responsible for compliance with the Act.”). The MSPA regulations provide that MSPA’s definition of the term “employ” includes the FLSA’s joint employment principles. See 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5); see also Antenor, 88 F.3d at 929 (MSPA makes clear that a worker can be jointly employed by more than one entity at the same time). “Joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act is joint employment under the MSPA.” 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(i) (emphasis omitted).6

The concept of joint employment, like employment generally, “should be defined expansively” under the FLSA and MSPA. Torres-Lopez v. May, 111 F.3d 633, 639 (9th Cir. 1997); see also Misclassification AI, 3-4. The concepts of employment and joint employment under the FLSA and MSPA are notably broader than the common law concepts of employment and joint employment, which look to the amount of control that an employer exercises over an employee. See Antenor, 88 F.3d at 933. Unlike the common law control test, which analyzes whether a worker is an employee based on the employer’s control over the worker and not the broader economic realities of the working relationship, the “suffer or permit” standard broadens the scope of employment relationships covered by the FLSA. See Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., 330 U.S. 148, 150-51 (1947) (FLSA’s definitions are “comprehensive enough to require its application” to many working relationships which, under the common law control standard, may not be employer-employee relationships); Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Darden, 503 U.S. 318, 326 (1992) (FLSA’s “suffer or permit” standard for employment “stretches the meaning of ‘employee’ to cover some parties who might not qualify as such under a strict application of traditional agency law principles.”). The test for joint employment under the FLSA and MSPA is thus different, for example, than the test under other labor statutes, such as the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 151 et seq., and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq. Indeed, in FLSA and MSPA cases, “courts have found economic dependence under a multitude of circumstances where the alleged employer exercised little or no control or supervision over the putative employees.” Antenor, 88 F.3d at 933 n.10.

Moreover, prior to the FLSA’s enactment, “suffer or permit” or similar phrasing was commonly used in state laws regulating child labor and was “designed to reach businesses that used middlemen to illegally hire and supervise children.” Antenor, 88 F.3d at 929 n.5. A key rationale underlying the “suffer or permit” standard was that an employer should be liable for the child labor if it had the opportunity to detect work being performed illegally and the ability to prevent it from occurring. See, e.g., People ex rel. Price v. Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker Co., 225 N.Y. 25, 29-31 (N.Y. 1918). Thus, the “suffer or permit to work” standard was designed to expand child labor laws’ coverage beyond those who controlled the child laborer, counter an employer’s argument that it was unaware that children were working, and prevent employers from using “middlemen” to evade the laws’ requirements.

In sum, the expansive definition of “employ” as including “to suffer or permit to work” rejected the common law control standard and ensures that the scope of employment relationships and joint employment under the FLSA and MSPA is as broad as possible.

II. Horizontal and Vertical Joint Employment Analyses in FLSA and MSPA Cases

The FLSA and MSPA regulations provide relevant and complementary guidance on joint employment. The structure and nature of the relationship(s) at issue should determine whether a particular case should be analyzed under horizontal or vertical joint employment, or both.7

Joint employment may exist when two (or more) employers each separately employ an employee and are sufficiently associated with or related to each other with respect to the employee. See 29 C.F.R. 791.2. This type of joint employment is sometimes referred to as horizontal joint employment. In a possible horizontal joint employment situation, there is typically an established or admitted employment relationship between the employee and each of the employers, and often the employee performs separate work or works separate hours for each employer. Thus, the focus of a horizontal joint employment analysis is the relationship between the two (or more) employers. The FLSA regulation provides guidance on horizontal joint employment. See, e.g., Chao v. A-One Med. Servs., Inc., 346 F.3d 908, 917-18 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing FLSA regulation). Examples of horizontal joint employment may include separate restaurants that share economic ties and have the same managers controlling both restaurants, see Chao v. Barbeque Ventures, LLC, 2007 WL 5971772, at *6 (D. Neb. Dec. 12, 2007), or home health care providers that share staff and have common management, see A-One Med. Servs., 346 F.3d at 918.

Joint employment may additionally exist when an employee of one employer (referred to in this AI as an “intermediary employer”) is also, with regard to the work performed for the intermediary employer, economically dependent on another employer (referred to in this AI as a “potential joint employer”).8 See 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5); A-One Med. Servs., 346 F.3d at 917 (describing vertical joint employment as possible in circumstances where “a company has contracted for workers who are directly employed by an intermediary company”). This type of joint employment is sometimes referred to as vertical joint employment. The vertical joint employment analysis is used to determine, for example, whether a construction worker who works for a subcontractor is also employed by the general contractor, or whether a farmworker who works for a farm labor contractor is also employed by the grower.9 Unlike in horizontal joint employment cases, where the association between the potential joint employers is relevant, the vertical joint employment analysis instead examines the economic realities of the relationships between the construction worker and the general contractor, and between the farmworker and the grower, to determine whether the employees are economically dependent on those potential joint employers and are thus their employees. The MSPA regulation provides a set of factors to apply an economic realities analysis in vertical joint employment cases. Although they do not all apply the same factors, several Circuit Courts of Appeals have also adopted an economic realities analysis for evaluating vertical joint employment under the FLSA. Regardless of the exact factors, the FLSA and MSPA require application of the broader economic realities analysis, not a common law control analysis, in determining vertical joint employment.

The joint employment approaches described in the FLSA and MSPA regulations interpret the same definition of employment. MSPA borrowed the FLSA’s definition of the term “employ” “with the deliberate intent” of adopting the FLSA’s joint employer doctrine “as the ‘central foundation’ of MSPA and ‘the best means by which to insure that the purposes of this MSPA would be fulfilled.’” 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(ii) (quoting MSPA’s legislative history); see also 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(i) (“Joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act is joint employment under the MSPA.”) (emphasis omitted). Therefore, the FLSA regulation is useful when analyzing potential horizontal joint employment cases, whether arising under the FLSA or MSPA. Likewise, the factors identified in the MSPA regulation are useful when analyzing potential vertical joint employment cases, whether arising under MSPA or the FLSA.10 This is not to say that the MSPA joint employment regulation itself applies in FLSA cases; however, the MSPA joint employment regulation and its economic realities factors are useful guidance in an FLSA case because of the shared definition of employment and the coextensive scope of joint employment between the FLSA and MSPA.11 For the reasons explained above, including the common definitions, using the joint employment factors identified in the MSPA regulation in an FLSA case is consistent with both statutes and regulations. It is also consistent with WHD’s prior guidance. See Home Care AI, 3 (economic realities factors identified in the MSPA regulation should be considered when determining joint employment under the FLSA, citing 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)); May 11, 2001 WHD Opinion Letter (identifying MSPA regulation’s economic realities factors as relevant factors when determining joint employment under the FLSA, citing 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)) (available at 2001 WL 1558966). Many potential joint employment cases arising under the FLSA will involve vertical joint employment, and an economic realities analysis of the type described in the MSPA joint employment regulation should be applied in those cases.

A. Horizontal Joint Employment and the Association of Potential Joint Employers

Horizontal joint employment should be considered when an employee is employed by two (or more) technically separate but related or overlapping employers.12 For example, the horizontal joint employment analysis would apply where a waitress works for two separate restaurants that are operated by the same entity and the question is whether the two restaurants are sufficiently associated with respect to the waitress such that they jointly employ the waitress; or where a farmworker picks produce at two separate orchards and the orchards have an arrangement to share farmworkers. In these scenarios, there would already be an established employment relationship between the waitress and each restaurant, and between the farmworker and each orchard. This joint employment analysis focuses on the relationship of the employers to each other.

In cases where joint employment is established, the employee’s work for the joint employers during the workweek “is considered as one employment,” and the joint employers are jointly and severally liable for compliance, including paying overtime compensation for all hours worked over 40 during the workweek. 29 C.F.R. 791.2(a).
Example:13 Casey, a registered nurse, works at Springfield Nursing Home for 25 hours in one week and at Riverside Nursing Home for 25 hours during that same week. If Springfield and Riverside are joint employers, Casey’s hours for the week are added together, and the employers are jointly and severally liable for paying Casey for 40 hours at her regular rate and for 10 hours at the overtime rate. Casey should receive 10 hours of overtime compensation in total (not 10 hours from each employer).

In determining whether a horizontal joint employment relationship exists, the focus should be on the relationship (and often the degree of association) between the two (or more) potential joint employers with respect to the employee and all of the relevant facts of the particular case. See 29 C.F.R. 791.2(a). According to 29 C.F.R. 791.2(b), “[w]here the employee performs work which simultaneously benefits two or more employers, or works for two or more employers at different times during the workweek, a joint employment relationship generally will be considered to exist” in situations such as: (1) arrangements between the employers to share or interchange the employee’s services; (2) where one employer acts directly or indirectly in the interest of another employer in relation to the employee; or (3) where the employers are associated “with respect to the employment of a particular employee and may be deemed to share control of the employee, directly or indirectly, by reason of the fact that one employer controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the other employer.” Id. at 791.2(b). In Schultz v. Capital International Security, Inc., for example, the court looked to the FLSA regulation and concluded that security workers were jointly employed by a security firm and the individual that the workers were hired to protect because the two employers were associated with respect to the employment of the workers and shared common control over them. See 466 F.3d 298, 306 (4th Cir. 2006) (“the entire employment arrangement fits squarely within the third example of joint employment in the regulation”).

Specifically, the court explained that the employers were both involved in the hiring of the workers, played some role in scheduling, discipline, and terminations, and shared responsibility for supplying the workers with equipment. See id.

The following facts may be relevant when analyzing the degree of association between, and sharing of control by, potential horizontal joint employers:

who owns the potential joint employers (i.e., does one employer own part or all of the other or do they have any common owners);
do the potential joint employers have any overlapping officers, directors, executives, or managers;
do the potential joint employers share control over operations (e.g., hiring, firing, payroll, advertising, overhead costs);
are the potential joint employers’ operations inter-mingled (for example, is there one administrative operation for both employers, or does the same person schedule and pay the employees regardless of which employer they work for);
does one potential joint employer supervise the work of the other;
do the potential joint employers share supervisory authority for the employee;
do the potential joint employers treat the employees as a pool of employees available to both of them;
do the potential joint employers share clients or customers; and,
are there any agreements between the potential joint employers.

See, e.g., 29 C.F.R. 791.2(b); June 14, 2005 WHD Opinion Letter (identifying a number of the above facts as relevant in finding joint employment) (available at 2005 WL 6219105); April 11, 2005 WHD Opinion Letter (identifying a number of the above facts in finding joint employment) (available at 2005 WL 2086804); Barbeque Ventures, 2007 WL 5971772, at *1, 5-6 (separate legal entities who employed employees at five different restaurants were joint employers given common ownership, management and control; the same manager owned one legal entity, was the majority owner and manager of the other entity, and supervised the Area Director for all five restaurants).

This is not an all-inclusive list of facts that could potentially be relevant to the analysis. Moreover, not all or most of the foregoing facts need to be present for joint employment to exist. Rather, these facts can help determine if there is sufficient indication that the potential joint employers are associated with respect to the employee and thus share control of the employee.

Joint employment does not exist, however, if the employers “are acting entirely independently of each other and are completely disassociated” with respect to an employee who works for both of them. 29 C.F.R. 791.2(a). In that event, each employer may disregard all work performed by the employee for the other when determining its own responsibilities under the law. See id. There are many workers who have multiple jobs with multiple employers who are not joint employers. For example, a high school teacher may also work a part-time job as an instructor for a standardized test preparatory company; the high school and the preparatory company would not be joint employers. In sum, the focus of the horizontal joint employment analysis is the degree of association between the two potential joint employers even if they are formally separate legal entities and the degree to which they share control of the employee.

Example: An employee is employed at two locations of the same restaurant brand. The two locations are operated by separate legal entities (Employers A and B). The same individual is the majority owner of both Employer A and Employer B. The managers at each restaurant share the employee between the locations and jointly coordinate the scheduling of the employee’s hours. The two employers use the same payroll processor to pay the employee, and they share supervisory authority over the employee. These facts are indicative of joint employment between Employers A and B.

In contrast, an employee works at one restaurant (Employer A) in the mornings and at a different restaurant (Employer B) in the afternoons. The owners and managers of each restaurant know that the employee works at both establishments. The establishments do not have an arrangement to share employees or operations, and do not otherwise have any common management or ownership. These facts are not indicative of joint employment between Employers A and B.

B. Vertical Joint Employment and Economic Dependence on the Potential Joint Employer

The vertical joint employment inquiry focuses on whether the employee of the intermediary employer is also employed by another employer – the potential joint employer. In vertical joint employment situations, the other employer typically has contracted or arranged with the intermediary employer to provide it with labor and/or perform for it some employer functions, such as hiring and payroll. There is typically an established or admitted employment relationship between the employee and the intermediary employer. That employee’s work, however, is typically also for the benefit of the other employer.

In contrast to the horizontal joint employment analysis, where the focus is the relationship between the employers, the focus in vertical joint employment cases is the employee’s relationship with the potential joint employer and whether that employer jointly employs the employee. Examples of situations where vertical joint employment might arise include garment workers who are directly employed by a contractor who contracted with the garment manufacturer to perform a specific function, see Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co., 355 F.3d 61, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2003); nurses placed at a hospital by staffing agencies, see Barfield v. N.Y. City Health & Hosps. Corp., 537 F.3d 132, 143-49 (2d Cir. 2008); or warehouse workers whose labor is arranged and overseen by layers of intermediaries between the workers and the owner or operator of the warehouse facility, see Carrillo v. Schneider Logistics Trans-Loading & Distrib., Inc., 2014 WL 183956, at *9-15 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 14, 2014). See also A-One Med. Servs., 346 F.3d at 917; Lantern Light, 2015 WL 3451268, at *3 (where company has contracted for workers who are directly employed by an intermediary, court applies vertical joint employment analysis to relationship between company and workers); Berrocal v. Moody Petrol., Inc., 2010 WL 1372410, at *11 n.16 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 31, 2010) (vertical joint employment may exist when “an employer hires laborers through a third party labor contractor”).

A threshold question in a vertical joint employment case is whether the intermediary employer (who may simply be an individual responsible for providing labor) is actually an employee of the potential joint employer. Where there is vertical joint employment, there is likely a contract or other arrangement – but not necessarily an employment relationship – between the intermediary employer and the potential joint employer.14 If the intermediary employer is an employee of the potential joint employer, then all of the intermediary employer’s employees are employees of the potential joint employer too, and there is no need to conduct a vertical joint employment analysis. For example, if a farm labor contractor is not actually an independent contractor but is an employee of the grower (i.e., is economically dependent on the grower as a matter of economic reality), then all of the farm labor contractor’s farmworkers are also employees of the grower. See 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(4). Likewise, if a drywall subcontractor is not actually an independent contractor but is an employee of the higher-tier contractor, then all of the drywall subcontractor’s workers are also employees of the higher-tier subcontractor. In sum, it is critical to first determine whether the intermediary employer is an employee of the potential joint employer before proceeding with the vertical joint employment analysis.15

Once it is determined that the intermediary is not an employee, the vertical joint employment analysis should be applied to determine whether the intermediary employer’s employees are also employed by the potential joint employer. Because it is an employment relationship analysis under the FLSA or MSPA, the vertical joint employment analysis must be an economic realities analysis and cannot focus only on control. As WHD has explained, the Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeals apply an economic realities analysis to determine the existence of an employment relationship under the FLSA and MSPA. See, e.g., Home Care AI; Misclassification AI; Tony & Susan Alamo Found. v. Sec’y of Labor, 471 U.S. 290, 301 (1985) (the test of employment under the FLSA is economic reality); Goldberg v. Whitaker House Co-op, Inc., 366 U.S. 28, 33 (1961) (the economic realities of the worker’s relationship with the employer are the test of employment); 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(iii). The particular economic realities factors relied upon differ somewhat depending on the court, and courts routinely note that other additional relevant factors may be considered, but regardless, it is not a control test.

The MSPA regulation, describing seven economic realities factors in the context of a farm labor contractor acting as an intermediary employer for a grower, provides useful guidance to analyze any vertical joint employment case. See 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(iv). These factors are probative of the core question of whether the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer who, via an arrangement with the intermediary employer, is benefitting from the work. As courts have cautioned, the factors in an economic realities analysis should not be considered mechanically or in a vacuum; rather, they are guides for resolving the ultimate inquiry whether the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer. See Antenor, 88 F.3d at 932-33; Misclassification AI, 5-6.16 Accordingly, these factors should be applied in a manner that does not lose sight of that ultimate inquiry or the expansive definition of employment under the FLSA and MSPA. See Antenor, 88 F.3d at 932-33 (“the factors are used because they are indicators of economic dependence” and should be viewed “qualitatively to assess the evidence of economic dependence”).

The seven factors are:

Directing, Controlling, or Supervising the Work Performed. To the extent that the work performed by the employee is controlled or supervised by the potential joint employer beyond a reasonable degree of contract performance oversight, such control suggests that the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer. The potential joint employer’s control can be indirect (for example, exercised through the intermediary employer) and still be sufficient to indicate economic dependence by the employee. See Torres-Lopez, 111 F.3d at 643 (“indirect control as well as direct control can demonstrate a joint employment relationship”) (citing pre-1997 MSPA regulation); Antenor, 88 F.3d at 932, 934; 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(iv). Additionally, the potential joint employer need not exercise more control than, or the same control as, the intermediary employer to exercise sufficient control to indicate economic dependence by the employee.17

Controlling Employment Conditions. To the extent that the potential joint employer has the power to hire or fire the employee, modify employment conditions, or determine the rate or method of pay, such control indicates that the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer. Again, the potential joint employer may exercise such control indirectly and need not exclusively exercise such control for there to be an indication of joint employment.

Permanency and Duration of Relationship. An indefinite, permanent, full-time, or long-term relationship by the employee with the potential joint employer suggests economic dependence. This factor should be considered in the context of the particular industry at issue. For example, if the work in the industry is by its nature seasonal, intermittent, or part-time, such industry condition should be considered when analyzing the permanency and duration of the employee’s relationship with the potential joint employer.
Repetitive and Rote Nature of Work. To the extent that the employee’s work for the potential joint employer is repetitive and rote, is relatively unskilled, and/or requires little or no training, those facts indicate that the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer.

Integral to Business. If the employee’s work is an integral part of the potential joint employer’s business, that fact indicates that the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer. Whether the work is integral to the employer’s business has long been a hallmark of determining whether an employment relationship exists as a matter of economic reality. See, e.g., Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722, 729-30 (1947).

Work Performed on Premises. The employee’s performance of the work on premises owned or controlled by the potential joint employer indicates that the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer. The potential joint employer’s leasing as opposed to owning the premises where the work is performed is immaterial because the potential joint employer, as the lessee, controls the premises.
Performing Administrative Functions Commonly Performed by Employers. To the extent that the potential joint employer performs administrative functions for the employee, such as handling payroll, providing workers’ compensation insurance, providing necessary facilities and safety equipment, housing, or transportation, or providing tools and materials required for the work, those facts indicate economic dependence by the employee on the potential joint employer.
See 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(iv).

Courts have applied many of the above factors to vertical joint employment scenarios in FLSA cases, though they have not explicitly relied on the MSPA regulation. See, e.g., Carrillo v. Schneider Logistics, 2014 WL 183956, at *6 (applying Ninth Circuit’s joint employment economic realities analysis). In Carrillo, for example, warehouse workers sued the companies that operated the distribution warehouses and the company that owned the warehouses. The owner of the warehouses argued that it was not a joint employer of the warehouse workers. In denying the owner’s motion for summary judgment, the court noted that there was evidence of possible joint employment for the following reasons: the owner exercised control over the warehouse workers’ employment conditions because it approved staffing levels at the warehouse, directed that employees be shifted to an alternative workweek schedule, closely monitored productivity levels, and established various operating metrics; the work was performed on premises owned or leased by the owner, who provided all of the equipment necessary to perform work at its warehouses; the work consisted primarily of conventional manual labor, requiring little skill; and the work was an integral part of the owner’s corporate strategy. See id. at *9-15. As the court did in Carrillo, applying these or similar factors will help to determine whether the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer.
As noted, the economic realities factors to apply vary somewhat depending on the court, but any formulation must address the “ultimate inquiry” of economic dependence. In applying any other relevant factors, the broad scope of joint employment under the FLSA and MSPA must be recognized. For example, in analyzing joint employment, the Second Circuit applies six economic realities factors: (1) use of the potential joint employer’s premises and equipment for the work; (2) whether the intermediary employer has a business that can or does shift from one potential joint employer to another; (3) whether the employee performs a discrete line-job that is integral to the potential joint employer’s production process; (4) whether the potential joint employer could pass responsibility for the work from one intermediary to another without material changes for the employees; (5) the potential joint employer’s supervision of the employee’s work; and (6) whether the employee works exclusively or predominantly for the potential joint employer. See Zheng, 355 F.3d at 71-72.

The Ninth Circuit applies factors from different sources: Bonnette v. Cal. Health & Welfare Agency, 704 F.2d 1465, 1470 (9th Cir. 1983) (four factor test primarily assessing potential joint employer’s control of employment conditions); the pre-1997 version of the MSPA joint employment regulation; and the eight economic realities factors set forth in Torres-Lopez, 111 F.3d at 640-41. See, e.g., Lantern Light, 2015 WL 3451268, at *2-17 (applying both the Bonnette and Torres-Lopez factors and finding that satellite television provider was a joint employer of the installers employed by the company with whom the provider contracted to install its services); Chao v. Westside Drywall, Inc., 709 F. Supp. 2d 1037, 1061-62 (D. Or. 2010) (applying both the Bonnette and Torres-Lopez factors). Thus, there are several formulations of the economic realities factors used to determine the employee’s economic dependence on a potential joint employer that are consistent with the broad scope of employment under the FLSA.

Some courts, however, apply factors that address only or primarily the potential joint employer’s control (power to hire and fire, supervision and control of conditions or work schedules, determination of rate and method of pay, and maintenance of employment records). See, e.g., Baystate Alt. Staffing, 163 F.3d at 675; In re Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Emp’t Practices Litig., 683 F.3d 462, 468-69 (3d Cir. 2012). This approach is not consistent with the breadth of employment under the FLSA. “Measured against the expansive language of the FLSA,” addressing only the potential joint employer’s control “is unduly narrow” and “cannot be reconciled with the ‘suffer or permit’ language in the [FLSA], which necessarily reaches beyond traditional agency law.” Zheng, 355 F.3d at 69. Indeed, the Second Circuit explained that, although satisfaction of the four “formal control” factors can be sufficient to establish joint employment, it has “never held ‘that a positive finding on those four factors is necessary to establish an employment relationship.’” Barfield, 537 F.3d at 143 (quoting Zheng, 355 F.3d at 69) (emphasis in original); see also Zheng, 355 F.3d at 69 (“[T]he broad language of the FLSA, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Rutherford, demands that a district court look beyond an entity’s formal right to control the physical performance of another’s work before declaring that the entity is not an employer under the FLSA.”). As explained above, the FLSA rejected control as the standard for determining employment, and any vertical joint employment analysis must look at more than the potential joint employer’s control over the employee.18

Example: A laborer is employed by ABC Drywall Company, which is an independent subcontractor on a construction project. ABC Drywall was engaged by the General Contractor to provide drywall labor for the project. ABC Drywall hired and pays the laborer. The General Contractor provides all of the training for the project. The General Contractor also provides the necessary equipment and materials, provides workers’ compensation insurance, and is responsible for the health and safety of the laborer (and all of the workers on the project). The General Contractor reserves the right to remove the laborer from the project, controls the laborer’s schedule, and provides assignments on site, and both ABC Drywall and the General Contractor supervise the laborer. The laborer has been continuously working on the General Contractor’s construction projects, whether through ABC Drywall or another intermediary. These facts are indicative of joint employment of the laborer by the General Contractor.

Example: A worker is hired by a farm labor contractor (FLC) to pick produce on a Grower’s farm. The FLC hired and pays the worker. The Grower dictates the timing of the harvest, which fields the worker should harvest, and the schedule each day. The work is unskilled, and any training is provided by the Grower. The Grower keeps track of the amount of produce that the worker picks per hour. The Grower provides the buckets for the produce, transports the produce from the field, and stores the produce. The Grower pays the FLC per bucket of produce picked, and withholds money to cover workers’ compensation insurance. The worker has been continuously working on the Grower’s farm during the harvest seasons, whether through this FLC or another farm labor contractor. These facts are indicative of joint employment of the worker by the Grower.

Example: A mechanic is employed by Airy AC & Heating Company. The Company has a short-term contract to test and, if necessary, replace the HVAC systems at Condor Condos. The Company hired and pays the mechanic and directs the work, including setting the mechanic’s hours and timeline for completion of the project. For the duration of the project, the mechanic works at the Condos and checks in with the property manager there every morning, but the Company supervises his work. The Company provides the mechanic’s benefits, including workers’ compensation insurance. The Company also provides the mechanic with all the tools and materials needed to complete the project. The mechanic brings this equipment to the project site. These facts are not indicative of joint employment of the mechanic by the Condos.

III. Conclusion

As a result of continual changes in the structure of workplaces, the possibility that a worker is jointly employed by two or more employers has become more common in recent years. In an effort to ensure that workers receive the protections to which they are entitled and that employers understand their legal obligations, the possibility of joint employment should be regularly considered in FLSA and MSPA cases, particularly where (1) the employee works for two employers who are associated or related in some way with respect to the employee; or (2) the employee’s employer is an intermediary or otherwise provides labor to another employer.

Whether to apply a horizontal or vertical joint employment analysis (or both analyses) depends on the circumstances of the case. The focus of a horizontal joint employment analysis is the relationship and association between the two (or more) potential joint employers, and the FLSA joint employment regulation provides guidance in evaluating such cases. The focus of the vertical joint employment analysis is the relationship between the employee and the potential employer and whether an employment relationship exists between them. The analysis must determine whether, as a matter of economic reality, the employee is economically dependent on the potential joint employer. The economic realities factors in the MSPA regulation provide guidance for analyzing vertical joint employment cases, although additional or different economic realities factors that are consistent with the broad scope of employment under the FLSA and MSPA may be helpful as well.

WHD will continue to consider the possibility of joint employment to ensure that all responsible employers are aware of their obligations and to ensure compliance with the FLSA and MSPA. As with all aspects of the employment relationship under the FLSA and MSPA, the expansive definition of “employ” as including “to suffer or permit to work” must be considered when determining joint employment, so as to further the statutes’ remedial purposes.

Footnotes
1 For example, a corporate hotel chain may contract out to another business the management, catering, or housekeeping services at one of its hotels. Workers who perform these services at the hotel may wear uniforms with the name of the hotel chain or the other business and may perform tasks dictated by the hotel chain, the other business, or both.

2 WHD considers joint employment in hundreds of investigations every year. WHD has determined, for example, that maritime fabrication facilities jointly employed welders, pipefitters, and other workers hired by staffing agencies; that hotels and hotel operating companies jointly employed housekeeping and guest services workers hired by staffing agencies; and that growers and farm labor contractors jointly employed farmworkers. See also Perez v. Lantern Light Corp., 2015 WL 3451268, at *17 (W.D. Wash. May 29, 2015) (finding that satellite television provider was a joint employer of the installers employed by the company with whom the provider contracted to install its services).

3 In June 2014, WHD issued Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2014-2, “Joint Employment of Home Care Workers in Consumer-Directed, Medicaid-Funded Programs by Public Entities under the Fair Labor Standards Act” (Home Care AI), available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/adminIntrprtn/FLSA/2014/FLSAAI2014_2.pdf. Although the Home Care AI was directed toward a particular employment scenario in a specific industry, the legal analyses in the Home Care AI and this Administrator’s Interpretation are harmonious and are intended to be read in conjunction with one another.

4 In other words, each joint employer is individually responsible, for example, for the entire amount of wages due. If one employer cannot pay the wages because of bankruptcy or other reasons, then the other employer must pay the entire amount of wages; the law does not assign a proportional amount to each employer.

5 In July 2015, WHD issued Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1, “The Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s ‘Suffer or Permit’ Standard in the Identification of Employees Who Are Misclassified as Independent Contractors” (Misclassification AI), available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/workers/Misclassification/AI-2015_1.pdf. In the Misclassification AI, the Administrator also discussed the FLSA’s broad statutory definitions; that AI addressed the issue of the misclassification of employees as independent contractors and provided guidance regarding determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.

6 The Department amended the MSPA joint employment regulation in 1997.

7 Given the potential complexity of employment relationships, aspects of both horizontal and vertical joint employment may be present in a single joint employment relationship. For example, both forms of joint employment could potentially exist where two warehouses share employees and use a staffing agency to provide them with labor.

8 Depending on the industry, the “intermediary employer” in a vertical joint employment relationship could be, for example, a staffing agency, farm labor contractor, subcontractor, or other labor provider, supplier, or broker, and the “potential joint employer” could be a parent corporation, farm owner, higher-tier contractor, or client of the staffing agency or labor provider, supplier, or broker.

9 As discussed below, a threshold determination in those examples would be whether the subcontractor or farm labor contractor itself is an independent contractor or whether it has an employment relationship with the general contractor or grower.

10 Courts have long turned to an economic realities analysis in analyzing vertical joint employment under the FLSA. The MSPA regulation itself cites to FLSA cases in defining joint employment. See, e.g., 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(5)(ii) (citing Hodgson v. Griffin & Brand of McAllen, Inc., 471 F.2d 235, 237 (5th Cir. 1973)).

11 In Layton v. DHL Express (USA), Inc., 686 F.3d 1172, 1176-78 (11th Cir. 2012), the court applied an economic realities analysis primarily based on the pre-1997 version of the MSPA joint employment regulation and correctly recognized that “in considering a joint-employment relationship, we must not allow common-law concepts of employment to distract our focus from economic dependency.” Yet, because the case arose under the FLSA, not MSPA, the court declined to use the factors in the current MSPA joint employment regulation despite the fact that the FLSA and MSPA define the scope of employment in the same way. See id. at 1177 (“Although [MSPA] defines joint employment by reference to the definition provided in the FLSA, that does not mean that the reverse holds true—that joint employment under the FLSA is invariably defined by [MSPA] regulations.”).

12 Even where two establishments are sufficiently related that they are part of a single enterprise (as defined in 29 U.S.C. 203(r)(1)) for FLSA coverage purposes, a separate determination is necessary to determine whether the establishments are joint employers. See 29 C.F.R. 779.203; A-One Med. Servs., 346 F.3d at 917 (“Whether two companies constitute a single enterprise for FLSA coverage and whether they are liable as joint employers . . . are technically separate issues.”). As explained by the case law, although the two analyses may require similar fact-finding and have similar considerations, determining that an employer is part of an enterprise to ascertain coverage under the FLSA is different from determining that the employer is a joint employer that is liable for minimum wages and overtime. See, e.g., Patel v. Wargo, 803 F.2d 632, 635 (11th Cir. 1986).

13 The addition or alteration of any of the facts in any of the examples in this AI could change the resulting analysis.

14 The contract between the potential joint employer and the intermediary employer may purport to disclaim or deny any responsibility by the potential joint employer as an employer. However, that type of contractual provision is not relevant to the economic realities of the working relationship between the potential joint employer and the employee.

15 The intermediary employer will be either an independent contractor or employee of the potential joint employer under the FLSA or MSPA. The Misclassification AI discusses the analysis for determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. See also 29 C.F.R. 500.20(h)(4).

16 The vertical joint employment economic realities factors overlap some with the economic realities factors used to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, as discussed in the Misclassification AI. However, the exact factors applicable when determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor cannot apply in a vertical joint employment case because they focus on the possibility that the worker is in business for him or herself (and thus is an independent contractor). In a vertical joint employment case, the worker is not in business for him or herself, but is an employee of the intermediary employer, and may also be employed by the potential joint employer.

17 This point holds true for the vertical joint employment analysis in general. It is not necessary for the employee to be more economically dependent on the potential joint employer than the intermediary employer for there to be joint employment. See Antenor, 88 F.3d at 932-33. The focus is the employee’s relationship with the potential joint employer and not a comparison of that relationship with the employee’s relationship with the intermediary employer. See id.

18 Enterprise Rent-A-Car involved whether a parent company was a joint employer of its subsidiaries’ employees. See 683 F.3d at 464. The Third Circuit acknowledged the breadth of employment under the FLSA and that indirect control can show joint employment, but it nonetheless ruled that joint employment in that case was determined by whether the parent exercised significant control. See id. at 467-68. The Third Circuit recognized that the control factors “do not constitute an exhaustive list of all potential relevant facts” and should not be blindly applied; rather, a joint employment determination must consider the employment situation in totality, including the economic realities of the working relationship. Id. at 469 (emphasis in original). The Third Circuit seemed to leave open the possibility that, in a case involving an intermediary employer providing labor to another employer, it would consider applying economic realities factors beyond the control factors applied in Enterprise Rent-A-Car to determine whether that other employer is a joint employer.

Proposed Changes to Form I-9

January 19, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Posted in E-Verify, Employee, Employer, Employment Law, I9, Immigration, Legal, New employment laws/amendments | Leave a comment

Directly from the USCIS.GOV website:

USCIS Seeks Comments on Proposed Changes to Form I-9

USCIS published a notice in the Federal Register on Nov. 24, 2015, to inform the public of proposed changes to Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The public may provide comments on the proposed changes for 60 days, until Jan. 25, 2016.

Many of the proposed changes to Form I-9 are intended to help reduce technical errors and help customers complete the form on their computer after they have downloaded it from uscis.gov. For instance, the form:

Checks certain fields to ensure information is entered correctly;
Provides additional spaces to enter multiple preparers and translators;
Includes drop-down lists and calendars;
Provides instructions on the screen that users can access to complete each field;
Includes buttons that will allow users to access the instructions electronically, print the form and clear the form to start over;
Provides a dedicated area to enter additional information that employers are currently required to notate in the margins of the form; and
Will generate a quick-response matrix barcode, or QR code, once the form is printed and can be used to streamline audit processes.
Other proposed changes include:

Requiring employees to provide only other last names used in Section 1, rather than all other names used;
Streamlining the certification in Section 1 for certain foreign nationals; and
Separating the instructions from the form to bring the form in line with USCIS’ practices.
Submit a Comment
To view the proposed form and instructions, go to the Form I-9 notice at http://www.regulations.gov. To submit a comment, enter USCIS-2006-0068 in the search box and click the “Comment Now!” button. After completing all the necessary fields, click “Submit Comment.”

After the 60-day period
After the 60-day period ends, USCIS may make changes to the form based on comments received and will publish a second notice in the Federal Register. The public will have an additional 30 days to provide comments on proposed changes. USCIS will notify the public about these comment periods on I-9 Central.

Which Form Should I Use?
Employers must complete Form I-9 for all newly hired employees to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States. The current version of Form I-9 is available on USCIS’ online I-9 resource center at http://www.uscis.gov/I-9central. Employers must continue to use the current version of Form I-9 until the Office of Management and Budget approves the proposed version and USCIS posts it on I-9 Central.

I-9 Central includes information about employer and employee rights and responsibilities, step-by-step instructions for completing the form, and information on acceptable documents for establishing identity and employment authorization. Subscribe to I-9 Central to receive updates and alerts.

Hultman Sensenig + Joshi thoughts to share:  After years of waiting for changes and finally having a revised Form I-9 in March of 2013, the tweaking to the revised Form I-9 continues.  Considering the fines are substantial for failure to accurately complete a Form I-9, paying attention to what USICS wants to change gives employers insight into where the Agency sees problems.  Remember, employers MUST fill out a Form I-9 for employees so this two page form is significant.  

By reading this blog, there is no legal advice being given and no attorney client relationship is being established.  

 

New Overtime Rules – will you be ready? Probably not…..

November 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, FLSA, Legal, New employment laws/amendments, wage & hour | Leave a comment

The Department of Labor won’t be releasing their revised rules as to who is eligible for overtime until 2016 – which means that the time between the publication of the rules and the effective date will be short. Have you analyzed your current positions to determine who is truly exempt as compared to non-exempt? It’s time to do that!

New FMLA Forms issued by Department of Labor – time to throw out the old forms and print some new ones!

June 4, 2015 at 1:57 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The new FMLA forms published by the DOL are for use through May 2018.  Very few changes were made, but the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act is now specifically referenced as physicians were sometimes providing a little too much information on the forms.

Go to:  http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/ and you will find the treasure trove of forms for all of your FMLA needs, including:

WH-380-E Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition

WH-380-F Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member’s Serious Health Condition

WH-381 Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities

WH-382 Designation Notice

WH-384 Certification of Qualifying Exigency For Military Family Leave

WH-385 Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of Current Servicemember — for Military Family Leave

And last, but not least,

WH-385-V Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Veteran for Military Caregiver Leave

Get your shredder working and replace the old FMLA forms with the new ones to remain in compliance.

There is no legal advice given through this blog, nor is an attorney client relationship created through the reading of this blog.

Christmas may be over, but you better watch out because DOL is “checking it twice” – and getting the Florida Department of Revenue’s assistance in their initiative to identify – and correct – independent contractor misclassification!

January 14, 2015 at 6:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Directly from the U.S. Department of Labor’s website:

News Release
WHD News Release: [01/13/2015]
Contact Name: Tania Mejia or Lindsay Williams
Phone Number: (202) 693-4686 or (678) 237-0630
Email: Mejia.Tania@dol.gov or williams.lindsay.l@dol.gov
Release Number: 15-0034-NAT
US Labor Department signs agreement with Florida Department of Revenue to reduce misclassification of employees

WASHINGTON — Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Florida Department of Revenue today signed a memorandum of understanding with the goal of protecting the rights of employees by preventing their misclassification as independent contractors or other nonemployee statuses. Under the agreement, both agencies will share information and coordinate law enforcement. The MOU represents a new effort on the part of the agencies to work together to protect the rights of employees and level the playing field for responsible employers by reducing the practice of misclassification. The Florida Department of Revenue is the latest state agency to partner with the Labor Department.
In Fiscal Year 2013, WHD investigations resulted in more than $83,051,159 in back wages for more than 108,050 workers in industries, such as janitorial, food, construction, day care, hospitality and garment. WHD regularly finds large concentrations of misclassified workers in low-wage industries.
“Misclassification deprives workers of rightfully-earned wages and undercuts law-abiding businesses,” said Dr. David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “This memorandum of understanding sends a clear message that we are standing together with the state of Florida to protect workers and responsible employers and ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”  “Working with the states is an important tool in ending misclassification,” said Wayne Kotowski, the Wage and Hour Division’s regional administrator for the southeast. “These collaborations allow us to better coordinate compliance with both federal and state laws alike.”  “By partnering with the U.S. Department of Labor we are actively working to level the playing field for Florida’s businesses to stop the misclassification of workers. Businesses that misreport workers obtain an unfair advantage over other law-abiding businesses,” said Florida Department of Revenue Executive Director, Marshall Stranburg.

Business models that attempt to change or obscure the employment relationship through the use of independent contractors are not inherently illegal, but they may not be used to evade compliance with federal labor law. Although legitimate independent contractors are an important part of our economy, the misclassification of employees presents a serious problem. Independent contractors are often denied access to critical benefits and protections, such as family and medical leave, overtime compensation, minimum wage pay and unemployment insurance, to which they are entitled. In addition, misclassification can create economic pressure for law-abiding business owners, who often find it difficult to compete with those who are skirting the law.
Memoranda of understanding with state government agencies arose as part of the department’s Misclassification Initiative, with the goal of preventing, detecting and remedying employee misclassification. Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Utah and Washington state agencies have signed similar agreements. More information is available on the Department of Labor’s misclassification website at http://www.dol.gov/misclassification/.
The mission of the department is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and ensure work-related benefits and rights. To learn more about the FLSA’s requirements, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free hotline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visit its website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

From Hultman Sensenig + Joshi: This is a topic near and dear to our hearts; if someone works only for you, is paid a salary, has no tools or equipment, and you control nearly every aspect of their employment, is it highly doubtful that they are a legitimate independent contractor. With this new agreement between the U.S. DOL and the FL DOR, if either Agency pays an employer a visit to review your “employees” vs. “contractors”, the other agency will soon be there to review whether civil money penalties and back taxes are owed – this is an expensive proposition. Be proactive, review the status of the people you engage vs. employ, and get some assistance if you have any questions.

There is no legal advice given through this blog, nor is an attorney client relationship created through the reading of this blog.

Workers Compensation and OSHA – strange bedfellows become more acquainted

January 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, Legal, New employment laws/amendments, OSHA, Workers' Compensation | Leave a comment
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From the Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation:

Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be changes to what employers are required to report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has requested the assistance of the Division of Workers’ Compensation in disseminating this information to Florida employers.

OSHA UPDATE: NEW REPORTING REQUIREMENTS START JANUARY 1.

Employers will now be required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours AND all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident.

Previously, employers were required to report all workplace fatalities and when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident.

The updated reporting requirements are not simply paperwork but have a life-saving purpose: they will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards.

Employers have three options for reporting these severe incidents to OSHA. They can call their nearest area office (www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html) during normal business hours, call the 24-hour OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742), or they can report online at http://www.osha.gov/report_online. For more information and resources, including a new YouTube video, visit OSHA’s webpage (www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014) on the updated reporting requirements.

*Employers under Federal OSHA’s jurisdiction must begin reporting by January 1. Establishments in a state with a State run OSHA program should contact their state plan for the implementation date.

To learn more about these issues and other Workers’ Compensation information click here: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/Division/WC/

 

From Hultman Sensenig + Joshi:  This is a new requirement for Florida employers.  If an injured employee is sent to the hospital, Risk Management or HR must be aware of whether the employee is admitted to the hospital within 24 hours of learning about the accident and hospital visit.  This will require extra vigilance on the part of HR and Risk Management as most injured workers don’t realize that hours of observation in a hospital is not actually being admitted and will likely report to a supervisor that they were admitted if they stayed at the hospital for 23 hours.

Your 2015 New Year’s Resolution Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor – Update your OSHA Reporting!

December 16, 2014 at 3:26 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This posting is taken verbatim from the U.S. DOL’s blog:  http://blog.dol.gov/2014/12/15/a-new-year-new-osha-reporting-requirements/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-new-year-new-osha-reporting-requirements.

The New Year will be here before we know it! For employers under the federal jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that means more than just making resolutions, they will need to comply with new reporting requirements going into effect January 1, 2015.

OSHA-flowEmployers will now be required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding about the incident. Previously, employers were required to report all workplace fatalities and when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident.

There will be three options for employers to report. They will be able to call their nearest area office during normal business hours, call the 24-hour OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742), or report online.

Since announcing the new requirements in September, we’ve been conducting extensive outreach to make sure employers understand what to do when they go into effect. Just last week, we held a live Twitter chat to answer questions.

During the chat, we answered over a dozen questions. But we noticed a few that seemed to be on everyone’s mind. So, we decided to share with you a little FAQ:

Q: How can an employer confirm the report from an injury has been documented?

A: If you do it online, you will receive email confirmation. By phone, you will be speaking directly to OSHA representatives.

Q: What is the best URL on the OSHA site to point our branch offices to for details of their obligations to report?

A: The best way is to go to: http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014

Q: What constitutes formal admittance for care? Surgeries can be either outpatient or inpatient.

A: The hospital or clinic determines whether the worker was formally admitted as an in-patient.

We also have a variety of additional resources for employers including a dedicated webpage, more FAQs, a Fact Sheet, and a video I recorded to help explain the new requirements.

It’s important to remember that these updated reporting requirements are not simply paperwork but have a life-saving purpose: they will help employers and workers prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards.

I think we can all agree that’s something to celebrate in the New Year.

Dr. David Michaels is the assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

From the Sensenig Law Firm, P.A.:  As we make resolutions to get more exercise, spend more time with family, drink less, and eat healthier foods, let’s add “keep our business healthy” by ensuring compliance with OSHA to the list.  Consider designating someone to be your OSHA point person, make sure your logs and reports are kept up to date and maintained.  Take a look at the FAQ sheet as to what else you may need to do in case of a workplace injury – workers’ compensation is not your only concern.  To quote a favorite line from a venerable old TV show, “Be careful out there.”

Please be aware that reading this blog does not create an attorney client relationship, nor is any information provided in this considered to be legal advice.

U.S. Department of Labor provides assistance to central Florida farmworkers – are you prepared for an audit and in compliance?

November 20, 2014 at 3:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Directly from the DOL’s website

News Release
WHD News Release: [11/12/2014]
Contact Name: Michael D’Aquino or Lindsay Williams
Phone Number: (678) 237-0630
Email: D’Aquino.Michael@dol.gov or williams.lindsay.l@dol.gov
Release Number: 14-2052-ATL

US DOL helped thousands of agricultural workers in central Florida this year

Investigations find minimum wage, overtime, housing and transportation violations

TAMPA, Fla. — A multiyear enforcement initiative conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has uncovered widespread labor violations in the central Florida agricultural industry. The initiative focused on hand-harvested crops — including citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries and watermelons — where many vulnerable migrant workers are employed and recovered average back wages of $340 per worker, more than enough to buy a week’s worth of groceries.
The initiative found migrant workers were often required to perform intense physical labor for long periods without compensation in violation of federal law. Other labor violations exposed these workers to unsafe transportation and unsanitary housing conditions. The investigations also found that employment conditions were not disclosed to workers. During fiscal year 2014, the division’s Tampa District Office conducted 155 agricultural investigations and recovered more than $131,000 in back wages for 387 workers. The division also assessed approximately $196,000 in civil money penalties.
“We are working harder and smarter to combat labor violations in the agricultural industry. We are studying employment relationships and directing our enforcement efforts throughout the supply chain to protect workers better and address problems at every level of the industry,” said Dr. David Weil, administrator for the Wage and Hour Division. “All our efforts are aimed at helping move employers toward positive, compliant business practices, so that workers and employers can prosper together.”
“We are committed to strong enforcement, but are also working with the industry to promote long-lasting compliance and a level playing field for law-abiding businesses. For example, we have partnerships with the citrus industry to provide compliance assistance and learn about industry problems. This cooperation has led to increased compliance with labor laws. In 2014, we saw fewer violations in the citrus industry than in 2013,” said James Schmidt, director of the division’s Tampa District Office. “We are eager to work with others, such as strawberry growers, where we continue to find significant labor violations.”
Under the ongoing initiative, investigators will continue to visit fields and packinghouses to assess compliance among agricultural employers, facility owners, growers, farm labor contractors and other businesses providing services to these agricultural operations. Thorough inspections of migrant housing units, vehicles, field sanitation facilities, and employment practices and pay records are being conducted to ensure compliance with applicable child and agricultural labor standards. When violations are found, the division will pursue corrective action, including litigation and the assessment of liquidated damages and civil money penalties, to recover workers’ wages and ensure accountability under the law.
These violations were committed under federal labor laws that set minimum standards for wages and disclosure of employment conditions to workers, basic standards for employers to provide safe and clean housing and safe transportation to workers, and standards for workers’ access to clean drinking water and toilet facilities in the field.
During FY14, the division is focused on educating stakeholders in the agricultural industry and continues to conduct educational outreach sessions, which provide valuable education and compliance assistance to agricultural employers, farm labor contractors and employees.
Most agricultural employers, agricultural associations and farm labor contractors are subject to the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which provides protections for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the department.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that covered workers be paid at least the national minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. The field sanitation provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act require covered employers to provide toilets, potable drinking water, hand washing facilities and information regarding good hygiene practices to their employees.
The Wage and Hour Division’s Tampa District Office can be reached at 813-288-1242. Information on the FLSA and other wage laws is available by calling the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) and visiting the division’s website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

From the Sensenig Law Firm:  For my colleagues and friends in the harvesting and agricultural professions, this is very important for you to know – compliance does have value; compliance affects your bottom line.  Take the upcoming harvesting season and the New Year as a good starting point to make compliance an achievable goal for your business.

Nothing in this blog is to be construed as the Sensenig Law Firm, P.A. as having provided legal advice.  There is no attorney client relationship created as a result of the posting or reading of this blog.  

EEOC shows its intent to protect farmworkers in the workplace

October 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Directly from the EEOC website: http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-22-14.cfm

Federal Agency Charges County Fair Farm With Subjecting Female Farmworkers to Groping, Verbal Abuse, Solicitations for Sex

BOSTON — County Fair Farm, a farm and produce wholesaler located in Jefferson, Maine, violated federal law by creating and maintaining a sexually hostile work environment for female farmworkers since 2003, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit today.

The EEOC charged that female farmworkers were groped, repeatedly propositioned for sex and subjected to lewd comments about their bodies by their supervisors and male co-workers while working at County Fair Farm. The lawsuit alleges that female farm workers repeatedly complained to County Fair Farm about the harassment, but the employer failed to take any action to correct the hostile work environment. In one case, the EEOC said, a female farm worker was subject to increased harassment after she complained and was ultimately forced to leave her job.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose it. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. County Fair Farms, 14-cv- 00415-GZS) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Portland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks monetary and injunctive relief.

The lawsuit, one of many similar suits filed by the agency in recent years on behalf of farmworkers, underscores the EEOC’s longstanding nationwide commitment to addressing the plight of these vulnerable workers, who are often reluctant or unable to exercise their rights under the equal employment laws.

Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking. Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach is another specific SEP priority. To learn more about the EEOC’s strategic plan and enforcement priorities, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep.cfm.

“Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and harassment,” said Robert D. Rose, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “They are entitled to the full protection of our laws, and the EEOC will vigorously enforce those laws when farmworkers are targets of abuse.”

Sara Smolik, trial attorney in the EEOC’s Boston office, added, “County Fair Farm has a responsibility to protect its workers, not tolerate harassment of them.”

For a select list of pending and resolved EEOC cases involving national origin discrimination and/or immigrant workers from 2005 to the present, see
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/litigation/selected/national_origin_immigrant_workers.cfm.
For a select list of pending and resolved cases involving farmworkers from 1999 to the present, see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/litigation/selected/farmworkers_august_2014.cfm.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Boston Area Office’s jurisdiction includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Further information is available at http://www.eeoc.gov.

From the Sensenig Law Firm, P.A.

Employers in agriculture need to be aware that vigilance in monitoring what is happening in the fields, in the groves, in the packing sheds, in the slaughterhouses, in the canneries, MUST occur; to claim “too much area to monitor” will not be an excuse the EEOC, or private counsel, accepts.

Having policies in place, and possibly proper insurance, will provide agricultural employers with defenses and funds to respond to litigation. First and foremost, this is a wake-up call for agricultural employers to be more proactive as to their harassment, discrimination and anti-retaliation policies.

Pay attention Florida employers, new minimum wage as of January 1, 2015

October 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, FLSA, New employment laws/amendments, wage & hour | Leave a comment
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Florida employers covered by minimum wage and overtime will need to update their posters on January 1,2015.  Minimum wage in Florida will rise from $7.93 to $8.05, and tipped wages will increase from $4.91 to $5.03 per hour.  The Florida minimum wage is currently higher than the federal minimum wage (which we know the increase of is a priority for the current administration) so covered employers must post both the federal and the state minimum wage notices.

Be sure to print the free new poster providing the new minimum wage from the http://www.floridajobs.org site once the updated poster is published.  Failure to do so is risking the ire – and a fine – from the Department of Labor if they happen to drop by to see if you are correctly displaying the new poster.  Be sure your accounting department and payroll companies are aware of this change.  An early Happy New Year to you!

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