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Microsoft Could Be Punished For Policies Obama Himself Has Praised

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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Microsoft warned Tuesday it could soon be punished by federal officials for enacting workplace policies President Barack Obama himself has praised.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has worked to expand a workplace regulation known as the joint-employer standard. The board can use the standard to require a company to take legal responsibility over another business it contracts with. Microsoft argued the expanded standard could be applied to them because of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) initiative.

“On one hand, the United States President has praised Microsoft for its market-leading CSR initiative,” Microsoft said in a legal brief, which was obtained by Politico. “On the other hand, the NLRB has adopted a joint employment standard that encourages unions to use the same policy to bring an unfair labor practices claim against Microsoft.”

The CSR initiative was designed to further workplace protections by requiring its contractors to provide certain benefits to its workers. The president praised the policy for enhancing workplace rights, but under the expanded standard it may leave the tech-giant open to being declared a joint-employer. Nevertheless the NLRB has said the new standard is a much needed update.

“Through its franchise relationship and its use of tools, resources and technology, engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations, beyond protection of the brand,” the NLRB has previously said in a legal brief. “To make it a putative joint employer with its franchisees, sharing liability for violations of our Act.”

Microsoft urged the circuit court to overturn a decision involving Browning-Ferris Industries which was used to expand the joint-employer standard. McDonald’s and Browning-Ferris Industries are the main cases that have allowed the NLRB to revisit the employment rule.

A business could get declared a joint-employer if it has direct control over the employees of another company under the old standard. Direct control could be over wages or hiring practices and so on. Republican lawmakers and business groups have warned the new standard puts unnecessary legal burdens on employers by considering indirect control over employment matters.

Federal officials haven’t yet defined what exactly indirect control entails, making it difficult for businesses to comply. The NLRB can now declare two or more companies joint-employers on a seemingly case-by-case basis. The NLRB declared Browning-Ferris a joint-employer with Leadpoint Business Services Jan. 12 while the McDonald’s case is still ongoing.

The White House, Microsoft and the NLRB did not respond to requests for comment by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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