The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday overturned a key Obama-era precedent that had given workers significant leverage in challenging companies like fast-food and hotel chains over labor practices.
The ruling changes the standard for holding a company responsible for labor law violations that occur at another company, like a contractor or franchisee, with which it has a relationship.
The doctrine also governs whether such a corporation would have to bargain with workers at a franchise if they unionized, or whether only the owners of the franchise would have to do so.
While most labor law experts expected the labor board, which gained a Republican majority only in late September, to overturn the board’s so-called joint-employer decision from 2015, the speed of the change came as a surprise to many.
“Frankly, it’s shocking,” said Wilma B. Liebman, a former Democratic appointee on the board who once served as its chairwoman.
The board’s 3-to-2 vote, along party lines, restores the pre-2015 standard, which deemed a fast-food corporation a joint employer only if it exercised direct and immediate control over workers at the franchise, and in a way that was not limited.