On August 27, the NLRB announced its decision in the joint employer case of Browning Ferris Industries. This ruling – that BFI was in fact a joint employer with its contracted company, Leadpoint, and is thus responsible for and included in the bargaining negotiations with the union – has left businesses across the country bewildered. This is because the criteria the Board set in place to determine joint employer status is just vague enough that determination has more to do with the opinion of Board members, rather than direct and distinct guidelines.

Many believe that this decision is further proof of the NLRB’s effort to help boost union numbers. If the bargaining unit of a company that does contract work for a larger company is “technically” a part of that larger company, then the union has just weaseled its way into a bigger pool without the larger company’s true employees even being interested.

We’re seeing the first big example of this with the Temporary Workers of America. As reported by Politico, TWA is currently in contract talks with Lionbridge Technologies concerning benefits for the 40 member unit of temporary employees that voted for TWA representation last year. TWA invited Microsoft (a company with 115,000 regular, full-time employees) to sit at the table as well, since these 40 Lionbridge employees do contract work for the software giant. Microsoft declined the invitation.

If joint employer is a concern of yours, read the article for some tips on how Microsoft is revising its policies regarding contract work.