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House committee advances Republican bill to limit joint employment

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(Reuters) — A congressional committee advanced a bill on Wednesday aimed at undoing a contentious U.S. labor board decision that loosened the standard for joint employment.

In a party line vote, Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce unanimously supported a one-sentence measure to amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish that joint employment only exists when two or more businesses share “actual, direct and immediate” control over working conditions.

In August, the National Labor Relations Board handed down a decision regarding Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., which said joint employment can exist when there is direct, indirect or potential control over working conditions.

Trade groups have decried the Browning-Ferris decision, claiming it could upend franchising, supply chains and business models that depend on contract labor. But some legal experts have argued those fears are unfounded because the decision is narrow, adopting a common-law definition of employment already applied in other contexts.

In one of the first applications of the Browning-Ferris decision, an NLRB judge on Oct. 21 found that an asbestos remover in Silver Spring, Maryland does not share control over employees with the Baltimore-based staffing firm supplying the workers.

The bill’s next step is a vote before the full House of Representatives before being considered by the Senate. But the measure is not expected to have enough support to overcome a presidential veto even if Congress passes it.