NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James recently co-led a multistate group of seventeen attorneys general in a comment letter opposing the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed rule that would narrow the interpretation of joint employment, thereby complicating how states enforce labor laws and leaving millions of workers vulnerable to labor violations. The coalition was co-led by the attorneys general of New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
In the comment letter submitted today to the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), the attorneys general challenge USDOL’s proposed rule changing the interpretation of joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs the liability of an employer who shares with another employer control over the terms and conditions of workers’ employment. The attorneys general contend that USDOL has failed to justify this new rule and draws on outdated analysis that does not consider the changing nature of today’s workplace relationships, including the fact that a growing number of businesses are changing organizational models by outsourcing integral functions, but still maintaining control of workers.
“The U.S. Department of Labor exists to protect workers, not empower companies to exploit them,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Narrowing the definition of ‘joint employer’ would deny workers’ legal protections and potentially allow employers to evade justice for committing labor violations. Mistreating workers is unacceptable, and we will continue to ensure that bad actors are held accountable.”
Under USDOL’s proposed rule, joint employment would be determined by whether an employer hires or fires the employee, supervises and controls the employee’s schedule and working conditions, determines the employee’s rate and method of payment, and maintains the employee’s records. But according to the attorneys general, this proposal is inconsistent with the purpose of the FLSA – to protect workers – and ignores decades of private sector development during which the economy and the workplace have changed.
Further, the attorneys general write that DOL’s proposed rule does not reflect today’s workplace relationships, where businesses increasingly share employees using third-party management companies, independent contractors, staffing agencies, or other labor providers. By narrowing the scope of the joint employment, the DOL’s change will leave millions of workers vulnerable to unchecked violations of federal labor laws.
If the federal standard fails to encompass companies that pay for subcontracted and other outsourced employees while also controlling the terms of employment, the attorneys general contend that gaps in legal compliance will inevitably increase, leaving workers at greater risk of exploitation. The attorneys general have held employers jointly accountable under state labor laws in appropriate circumstances to ensure a full remedy for injured workers, and Attorney General James will continue to enforce state labor laws in order to fully vindicate workers’ rights.
Today’s comment letter was co-led by the attorneys general from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, and joined by California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.