FMLA Joint Employer Doctrine May Cover Unaware Smaller Employers

A cautionary tale to smaller employers concerning FMLA coverage and compliance:

"On September 19, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of an employee on the issue of FMLA coverage under the joint-employer doctrine.  Cuff v. Trans States Holdings, Inc., No. 13-1241 (7th Cir., 9-19-2014).  The Family and Medical Leave Act applies only to an employer that has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee's work station.  Cuff was on the payroll of Trans States, which only had 33 employees.  However, Department of Labor Regulation 29 C.F.R. 825.106(a) provides that workers are covered by the FMLA when they are jointly employed by multiple firms that collectively employ 50 or more workers.  In addition, DOL Regulation 29 C.F.R. 825.104(c) provides that 2 or more firms may be treated as a single employer when they operate a joint business.  The joint-employer doctrine applies when one person is employed jointly by two firms that otherwise have distinct labor forces.
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The 7th Circuit held that Cuff was covered by the FMLA because he was jointly employed by Trans States and GoJet, who collectively employ 50 or more workers."  (link)