A court in the Eastern District of Texas recently held that two companies were “integrated employers” under the Family Medical Leave Act, in part, because the two companies shared a Facebook page. Dooling v. Bank of the West, No. 4:11-cv-00576 (E.D. Tex. July 17, 2013) (Bush, Mag. J.).
This conclusion allowed the plaintiff to establish her status as an eligible employee under the FMLA because both companies combined had more than 50 employees.
Our readers may be aware that the concepts of joint employer, integrated employer, co-employer or dual employer can arise in other areas. In the workers’ compensation context, for example, multiple companies can qualify as employers in states (such as Texas) that recognize the dual-employer doctrine, thereby allowing multiple employers to invoke the exclusive-remedy defense in negligence actions. See Wingfoot Enters. v. Alvarado, 111 S.W.3d 134 (Tex. 2003).
The FMLA ruling seems to be the first court opinion finding that a shared social media account can support a finding of joint employer status. We will be interested in seeing whether other courts will extend that finding to additional contexts.
James V. Leito IV (firstname.lastname@example.org / +1 214 855 8004) is a lawyer in Norton Rose Fulbright Dallas’s litigation practice.