A decision by the National Labor Relations Board broadening the definition of "employer" sets the stage for what is expected to be a protracted legal battle between business interests and organized labor that could ultimately lead to a new understanding of what it means to be a worker in America.
Thursday's ruling by the NLRB involving sanitation company Browning-Ferris Industries was fairly narrow, concluding that both the company and a subcontractor are joint employers of workers. But employment law experts say that, if it stands, it could have big implications for large franchisors like McDonald's and other fast-food operators as well as the growing number and type of companies that depend on contract or temporary help, including those in the so-called "sharing economy" like Uber.
"It definitely opens up or broadens the joint employer standard," said Jeffrey Hirsch, a law professor at the University of North Carolina. "The degree to which it does that is too early to tell, but certainly for employers like franchisors and many others, it's a potential new liability."
Read more from NBC News:
Workplace Injury, Illness Pushing Americans Deeper Into Poverty
Fledgling Marijuana Industry Pressing Through Labor Pains
Ford Throws UAW (and Trump) a Bone, Shifts Work from Mexico to Ohio