By Congressman Bradley Byrne
When I ran for Congress, I made clear that I wanted to be a workhorse, not a show horse. That means my focus has been on actually getting results instead of just talking about problems. We were able to get a big result last week when the House passed my bill, the Save Local Business Act.
The legislation came about after I heard concerns from multiple locally owned businesses. I’ve sat down in local restaurants and heard firsthand from hardworking men and women who took time away from their business to travel to Washington and urge Congress to address issues caused by something known as the “joint employer” standard.
So, what is the issue exactly?
For decades, there was a commonsense legal test that determined when two or more separate businesses could be considered joint employers and held jointly responsible for the same group of employees. Employers had to share “direct” and “immediate” control over essential terms and conditions of employment.
As a former labor and employment attorney who practiced in this area for decades, I can assure you that this was the standard that everyone knew and appreciated. Unfortunately, in 2015, the activist National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling in Browning-Ferris Industries that upended this cornerstone of federal labor law and created a vague and unworkable new joint employer policy. Making matters even worse and more complicated, federal agencies then incorporated the new standard in their regulatory agenda.
Under this new standard, two independent businesses can be considered joint employers if they make a business agreement that “indirectly” or “potentially” impacts their employees.
Just think about the uncertainty and ambiguity this standard could cause. It’s hard enough for labor attorneys to even agree on what exactly it means to have “indirect” or “potential” control over an employee. Imagine how confusing it is for Main Street businesses to understand and follow.
Bob Omainsky, the owner of Wintzell’s Oyster House, had this to say about the confusion caused by the new joint-employer standard: “If we hire an outside landscaping company to keep our lawns lush, I could be considered a joint employer if I show the landscapers where to mow. Or, if I contract a food supplier for certain ingredients, I could become part of a lawsuit if one of their workers complains about overtime pay. The uncertainty is nothing more than governmental overreach that is crippling eateries like Wintzell’s and discouraging growth throughout the restaurant industry.”
Workers shouldn’t have to wonder who their employer is. They deserve better than a vague and confusing rule that the American Action Forum found threatens 1.7 million jobs. Even the Progressive Policy Institute issued a statement saying that the expanded standard “may do more harm than good.”
My legislation earned support from both Republicans and Democrats when it passed the House last week. This is a bipartisan issue because it isn’t about politics. Instead, it’s about saving jobs and supporting locally-owned businesses.
Despite scare tactics from Big Labor bosses and their trial lawyer buddies, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: this legislation does not remove a single worker protection. All worker protections provided by the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Equal Pay Act remain unchanged and are still available.
Ultimately, my bill is about providing clarity to workers and job creators. It is about protecting the rights of workers and ensuring employers have clarity on their responsibilities to employees.
I was proud to see the bill pass out of the House last week, and I am going to continue focusing on getting results for the people of Southwest Alabama.