Providing Protection from “Joint Employer” Liability

March 13, 2018

More and more, employees are bringing claims on a “joint employer” theory, seeking to hold their employer and another entity liable for alleged unlawful conduct. The “joint employer” argument frequently comes up in the context of temporary employees who are assigned by temporary staffing companies to work for clients. Often, employees will claim that one “joint employer” is liable for the other’s alleged conduct, sometimes doing so in class action lawsuits.

Epstein Becker Green has experience successfully representing companies on “joint employer” issues. For example, we recently achieved an important victory for our client, a temporary staffing company, in a joint-employer class action in California. The temporary staffing company had assigned the plaintiff, a temporary worker, to work for one of its clients, which the plaintiff alleged denied her statutorily required meal periods. The plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit in state court, claiming that both companies were “joint employers” and that the temporary staffing company was vicariously liable for alleged meal period violations committed by the client. This issue of vicarious liability for “joint employers” on such a claim is one that had never been addressed by the appellate courts in California. Epstein Becker Green convinced the lower court and, subsequently, an appellate court that “joint employers” are not vicariously liable for each other’s alleged meal period violations—and, in particular, that temporary staffing companies are not liable for the wage and hour violations committed by their clients. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s class action lawsuit was dismissed as to the temporary staffing company.