While wage-and-hour laws, like other employment laws. are generally “broad” and intended to foster the goal of worker protection, the scope of such laws is not limitless, as demonstrated by a recent decision from an Indiana appeals court addressing an alleged multiple or joint employer scenario. Rodriguez v. S. Dunes Golf, LLC, 2014 Ind. App. Unpub. LEXIS 882 (Ind. Ct. App. June 30, 2014).
Southern Dunes, a golf club, employed plaintiff Rodriguez as its Banquet Manager, and then its Special Events Coordinator. When Southern Dunes outsourced its food and beverage catering to Najem Catering, Rodriguez transitioned to Najem’s employ. Several weeks later, Najem terminated Rodriguez. Rodriguez then filed suit for commissions relating to events she booked while employed by Southern Dunes which did not take place until after her termination. The filing was based on an Indiana statutory provision requiring that “the unpaid wages or compensation of [an] employee shall become due and payable at regular payday for pay period in which separation occurred.” Ind. Code § 22-2-9-2. Rejecting such claim against Southern Dunes, the court held that Najem was the sole proper “employer” with respect to any such commissions as the commissions were paid only on actual food and beverage sales at the time of the event (not the initial banquet fee), and here such sales (and corresponding commissions) occurred after Najem assumed responsibility for the catering function (including employment of Rodriguez and receipt of those food and beverage sales).
Not all joint employer stories end with such clarity. Businesses utilizing vendors, contractors or other business partners – part of what new Wage/Hour Administrator Prof. David Weil calls the fissured economy – must analyze all potential labor and employment law considerations.