Imagine a robber enters a bank, demands the contents of the safe, flees with bags of cash, and once caught, has to do one thing: return the stolen money and promise not to do it again. No penalty, no prosecution, no additional deterrent. More people would likely think, "Why not try? If I get caught, the worst that could happen is I would give the money back.”
The federal labor department this month announced a nationwide pilot program which is pretty close to this scenario. Under the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program, the U.S. Department of Labor would enable employers who have underpaid their hard-working employees to simply pay back those wages owed, while avoiding any penalties and damages. It’s a cute acronym for a very bad idea.
Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board vacated its December decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors. (Ben and Sharon had called for this action in OnLabor last week here and here.) The Board’s unusual action follows a finding by the Board’s Inspector General that Member Bill Emanuel should have recused himself from participation in the case. The Board noted in its press release that because Hy-Brand had been vacated, “the overruling of the Board’s decision in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), set forth therein is of no force or effect.”
The Board’s action was a welcome first step in correcting the damage done by the Hy-Brand decision. Most importantly, for the time being, the Board will determine joint employer status using the standard set forth in Browning-Ferris – a standard that takes into account the reality of today’s fissured workplaces. Beyond that important restoration, however, the Board’s one sentence order vacating Hy-Brand leaves many questions about the future unanswered.