NLRB Responds To House Democrats About Private Contractor Participation In Joint Employment Rule Comment Processing


National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) Chairman John F. Ring responded today  letter to the March 14, 2019 letter of House Ways & Means Chairman Robert “Bobby” Scott and Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairwoman Frederica Wilson expressing concerns about the NLRB’s use of contractors to aid it in processing the nearly 29,000 comments the NLRB received in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Proposed Rule”) proposing standards for determining when the NRLB will treat two businesses as a single employer for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).

The NLRB has engaged outside contractors to assist the NLRB to process, classify and code the nearly 29,000 comments it received in response to the Proposed Rule during the comment period that ended in December, 2018.  In their March 14, 2019 letter, Congressman Scott and Congresswoman Wilson expressed “concern” about reports that the NLRB planned to outsource “review of public comments” to a private contractor the and demanded the NRLB respond to their demand for information and documents.

The Proposed Rule  

The Proposed Rule published by the NRLB last year would overrule a definition of joint employment implemented by NLRB order during the Obama Administration when Democratic appointees dominated NLRB during the Obama Administration.  A finding of joint employment by the NLRB results in the NLRB treating  a separate business that does not directly employ workers employed by a second business as a single employer, both of which are jointly and severally liable for complying with and breaches of NLRB rules on union organizing, collective bargaining and other NLRA protected activities even where the business is not under common ownership or control with the business that actually is the true employer of the workers.

The Proposed Rule seeks to overrule an interpretive position adopted by the NLRB during the Obama administration under which unions could use limited indirect involvement or control by a business Including limited involvement by general contractors subcontractors as the basis for having that business be treated as a joint player for purposes of union organizing in collective-bargaining obligations under the NLRB.

During the Obama Administration, the NLRB by Board order and without  following regulatory rulemaking procedures or providing any opportunity for public comment expanded the circumstances where a business is treated as a joint employer to include situations where the business does not have direct control over the worker in such a way that it imperils businesses that contract  to receive services under independent contractor or subcontractor agreements from businesses with unionized workers or involved in organizing campaigns.  As modified during the Obama Administration, the NLRB could find a business liable as a joint employer based on very limited, indirect influence on terms of work such as setting the hours that a job site is available for the performance of work or requiring compliance with workplace safety or other contractual standards including those required to comply with federally imposed government contracting requirements. Congressman Scott and Congresswoman Wilson, both members of the current Democratic Majority in the House well known for their pro-labor  positions, oppose the changes set forth in the Proposed Rule.

Outsourcing Inquiry & Response

In his March 22, 2019 Letter, Chairman made clear that the NRLB has not outsourced the substantive analysis of the comments to a private contractor.  Rather, he explained that the NRLB merely has engaged an outside private contractor a General Services  Administration (“GSA”)-approved temporary employment agency, contracted through the GSA bid process to provide temporary support on a limited, short-term basis to
perform the initial sorting and coding of the public comments.   The Chairman stated that the use of these outside service providers to sort and code the response is a more cost effective alternative to completing this work than using NLRB legal staff and frees up the NLRB lawyers to perform their legal responsibilities for the NLRB.

The Proposed Rule enjoys significant support within the business community and among Republican leaders, but is widely opposed among Congressional Democrats.  The Trump Administration is expected to approve some version of the Proposed Rule soon.

About The Author

Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation; Former Chair of the RPTE Employee Benefits and Compensation Committee, a current Co-Chair of the Committee, and the former Chair of its Welfare Benefit and its Defined Compensation Plan Committees and former RPTE Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council (JCEB) Representative, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” practicing attorney and management consultant, author, public policy advocate, author and lecturer repeatedly recognized for her 30 plus years’ of work and pragmatic thought leadership, publications and training on health, pension and other employee benefit,  insurance, labor and employment, and health care  fiduciary responsibility, payment, investment, contracting  and other design, administration and compliance concerns as among the “Top Rated Labor & Employment Lawyers in Texas,” a “Legal Leader,” a “Top Woman Lawyer” and with other awards by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the field of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, in International Who’s Who of Professionals and with numerous other awards and distinctions.

Highly valued for her ability to meld her extensive legal and industry knowledge and experience with her talents as an insightful innovator and pragmatic problem solver, Ms. Stamer advises, represents and defends employer, union, multi-employer, association and other employee benefit plan sponsors, insurers and managed care organizations, fiduciaries, plan administrators, technology and other service providers, government and community leaders and others about health and other employee benefit and insurance program and policy design and innovation, funding, documentation, administration, communication, data security and use, contracting, plan, public and regulatory reforms and enforcement, and other risk management, compliance and operations matters. Her experience encompasses leading and supporting the development and defense of innovative new policies, programs, practices and solutions; advising and representing clients on routine plan establishment, plan documentation and contract drafting and review, administration, change and other compliance and operations; crisis prevention and response, compliance and risk management audits and investigations, enforcement actions and other dealings with the US Congress, Departments of Labor, Treasury, Health & Human Services, Federal Trade Commission, Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission, Education and other federal agencies, state legislatures, attorneys general, insurance, labor, worker’s compensation, and other agencies and regulators, and various other foreign and domestic governmental bodies and agencies. She also provides strategic and other supports clients in defending litigation as lead strategy counsel, special counsel and as an expert witness. Alongside her extensive legal and operational experience, Ms. Stamer also is recognized for her work as a public and regulatory policy advocate and community leader with a gift for finding pragmatic solutions and helping to forge the common ground necessary to build consensus. Best known for her domestic public policy and community leadership on health care and insurance reform, Ms. Stamer’s lifelong public policy and community service involvement includes service as a lead consultant to the Government of Bolivia on its pension privatization project, as well as extensive legislative and regulatory reform, advocacy and input workforce, worker classification, employee benefit, public health and healthcare, social security and other disability and aging in place, education, migration reforms domestically and internationally throughout her adult life. In addition to her public and regulatory policy involvement, Ms. Stamer also contributes her service and leadership to a professional and civic organizations and efforts including her involvement as the Founder and Executive Director of the Coalition on Responsible Health Policy and its PROJECT COPE; Coalition on Patient Empowerment, a founding Board Member and past President of the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence; Vice Chair of the ABA Tort & Insurance Practice Section Employee Benefits Committee; Vice Chair, Policy for the Life Sciences Committee of the ABA International Section, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group; current Fiduciary Responsibility Committee Co-Chair and Membership Committee member of the ABA RPTE Section; former RPTE Employee Benefits and Other Compensation Group Chair, former Chair and Co-Chair of its Welfare Plans Committee, and Defined Contribution Plans Committee; former RPTE Representative to ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council; former RPTE Representative to the ABA Health Law Coordinating Counsel; former Coordinator and a Vice-Chair of the Gulf Coast TEGE Council TE Division, past Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Committee, former Board Member, Continuing Education Chair and Treasurer of the Southwest Benefits Association; Vice President of the North Texas Healthcare Compliance Professionals Association; past Board Member and Board Compliance Committee Chair for the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas; former Board President of the early childhood development intervention agency, The Richardson Development Center for Children; past Dallas World Affairs Council Board Member, and in leadership of many other professional, civic and community organizations. Ms. Stamer also is a highly popular lecturer, symposia chair and author, who publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry, human resources, employment and other privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management for the American Bar Association, ALI-ABA, American Health Lawyers, Society of Human Resources Professionals, the Southwest Benefits Association, the Society of Employee Benefits Administrators, the American Law Institute, Lexis-Nexis, Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), InsuranceThoughtLeaders.com, the Society of Professional Benefits Administrators, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Texas CEO Magazine, HealthLeaders, the HCCA, ISSA, HIMSS, Modern Healthcare, Managed Healthcare, Institute of Internal Auditors, Society of CPAs, Business Insurance, Employee Benefits News, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other symposia and publications. She also has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for human resources, employee benefit and other management focused publications of BNA, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com and many other prominent publications and speaks and conducts training for a broad range of professional organizations and for clients, serves on the faculty and planning committee of many workshops, seminars, and symposia, and on the Advisory Boards of InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, and many other publications.

Beyond these involvements, Ms. Stamer also is active in the leadership of a broad range of other public policy advocacy and other professional and civic organizations and involvements. Through these and other involvements, she helps develop and build solutions, build consensus, garner funding and other resources, manage compliance and other operations, and take other actions to identify promote tangible improvements in health care and other policy and operational areas.

Before founding her current law firm, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C., Ms. Stamer practiced law as a partner with several prominent national and international law firms for more than 10 years before founding Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. to practice her unique brand of “Solutions law™” and to devote more time to the pragmatic policy and system reform, community education and innovation, and other health system improvement efforts of her PROJECT COPE: the Coalition on Patient Empowerment initiative.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

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NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as an admission. The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The presenter and the program sponsor disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify any participant of any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.

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©2018 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions  Law Press, Inc.™   For information about republication, please contact the author directly.  All other rights reserved.

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