CNN America Inc. has criticized the National Labor Relations Board's application of its joint employer standard, revised in August 2015 to make it easier to hold companies liable for the labor and employment law violations of partner organizations, including subcontractors, subsidiaries, and franchisees.

The media company is challenging an adverse NLRB decision rebuking the board's finding that it is a joint employer with a former subcontractor.

In 2003, CNN terminated a long-standing services contract with unionized subcontractor Team Video Services, which provided CNN with technical workers for broadcasts. After the termination, CNN rehired many of the workers as nonunionized labor.

The NLRB investigated and decided that CNN was a joint employer of the terminated workers along with Team Video Services and was therefore responsible for a host of unfair labor practices, including letting workers go because of union animus and failing to bargain with the unionized workers about the termination decision and its effects.

A coalition of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, also rebuked the NLRB's treatment of CNN as a joint employer.

Steven Suflas, managing partner of Ballard Spahr's Denver office, says that the change in standards has started to interfere with contractual relationships, as companies are even more concerned than before about avoiding joint employer connections.

"Frankly," he says, "it's getting more difficult to structure contractual relationships with supplier companies, because now everyone's saying, 'Well, if there are wage and hour issues or OSHA [U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration] issues, we want you to bear that liability—not us, you.'"

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