The US Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on July 29 ruled the National Relations Labor Board in 2020 improperly applied its standard to conclude that Browning-Ferris Industries of California Inc. wasn’t a joint employer and didn’t have to bargain with workers supplied by a staffing company. The court said the board failed to properly explain its reasoning for that outcome, remanding the case back to the board.

The Browning-Ferris case, initially about worker unionization rights, became a case about joint-employer status. The initial 2015 ruling in Browning-Ferris expanded the definition of joint employer to companies with indirect control over workers. The standard went through multiple reversals before the Trump administration developed a final rule codifying the stricter joint-employer standard based on direct control.

Meanwhile, the Browning-Ferris case itself has still been subject to appeals; with the Circuit Court’s ruling, the case is remanded back to the NLRB. For its part, the NLRB made official in its Spring Rulemaking Agenda its intention to tackle the final rule for determining joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act. Because the Trump administration issued a final rule on joint-employer classification, further changes to the standard can now only come through another final rule and not a case ruling.