Joint Employers in Washington State


The proliferation of large entitites contracting and subcontracting their hiring to staffing agencies has surely streamlined, and made hiring, firing and management of employees easier for large employers. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/20/department-of-labor-sends-warning-shot-to-clients-of-temp-staffing-agencies/. And it was therefore inevitable that related employment legal issues would sprout from this fertile soil.

And, so it has. About half of my wage cases deal with these types of contracting, and subcontracting staffing issues. I exclusively represent plaintiffs, and most of that work is employee wage and discrimination issues, and I'm here to tell you that good news has arrived for workers. Recently the Wasington State Supreme Court held that it was adopting the FLSA's Economic Reality Test for determining if a there is joint employment liability in terms of Washington State's Minimum Wage Act.

This would indicate that the Washington State Supreme Court is ready to expand the joint employer doctrine to a wider spectrum of employment issues, i.e., wage theft, wage rebate, discrimination, etc. In short, employees in these types of arrangements can actually bring litigation against their offending employers, and have some prospect of recovering damages. Simultaneously, large employers' days of limiting their legal liability to their contracted and subcontracted employees by outsoursing hiring may be numbered.

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