In recent months, we have discussed courts adjudicating claims seeking to hold municipalities and business’ clients‘ liable as “joint employers” for alleged unpaid wages under the FLSA. A new decision rejects a similar challenge brought with respect to a trade association. IBEW, Local Union No. 8 v. King Elec. Servs., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63462 (N.D. Ohio May 8, 2014).
Plaintiffs in King claimed that they were owed wages under the FLSA not only by their employer, King Electrical Services, Inc., and its principal, King, but also by the association of construction firms sponsoring the apprenticeship program under which they came they came to work for King Electrical. However, plaintiffs’ complaint alleged only that King Electrical and King himself set their terms of conditions of employment, including the payment of wages. As to the trade association, the complaint stated only that the association “acted directly in the interest of . . . King Electrical in relation to plaintiffs.” The Court rejected this allegation of joint employer status as nothing more than a “formulaic recitation” of the elements of an FLSA claim, and thus inadequate to state a cause of action under Twombly/Iqbal doctrine. The court accordingly dismissed the complaint against the trade association.
King is a victory for business associations which seek to administer programs such as a construction apprenticeship program, as the decision provides support for a conclusion that such practices do not create joint employment liability. The key is avoiding factual scenarios giving rise to allegations of control over the specific terms of employment. Associations must analyze their relationship with participating members’ workforces.