In late 2012, thousands of McDonald’s workers across the nation protested, demanding higher wages of $15.00 per hour. As a result of those strikes, many employees claimed they were unlawfully reprimanded, disciplined, or otherwise suffered adverse employment actions for the protesting, which is organized behavior protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Since then, hundreds of workers have filed claims with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against McDonald’s for the NLRA violations.
Though the NLRB has dismissed many of the cases, it has also found merit in approximately 43 claims. Additionally, the NLRB general counsel issued a ruling on July 29, 2014 that could have serious implications for the McDonald’s corporate office.
Joint Liability for McDonald’s
Approximately 90 percent of McDonald’s locations in the United States are operated by franchisees. In the wake of wage and labor accusations, the corporate office has always pointed the blame at the franchise operators, claiming that the franchisees are the ones responsible for setting unfair wages and treating employees poorly. The NLRB ruling may stop McDonald’s ability to steer blame away from the corporate office.
The decision held McDonald’s as a joint employer, along with the franchisee, in the 43 valid claims. This means that the NLRB is willing to hold the corporation jointly liable for wage and labor violations that are committed in its franchised restaurants.
McDonald’s has long asserted that its franchise operators have the discretion when it comes to employee relations, and should therefore be solely liable for violations. However, the NLRB found evidence that the McDonald’s corporate office exercises significant control over many aspects of its franchise restaurants, including employment practices and policies. Because McDonald’s institutes the main standards for all of its locations regarding many aspects of employment, the corporation should also be at least partially liable for labor and wage violation claims asserted by mistreated employees. Some employment law experts stated the decision would prevent McDonald’s from hiding behind franchisees in the face of labor accusations. A McDonald’s spokesperson stated they plan on appealing the ruling.
What This Could Mean for Other Companies
The McDonald’s decision may have implications for numerous other corporations that operate through franchises or subcontractors. All employers, no matter what level of management they are on, can avoid liability complying with all employment and labor laws and keeping a watchful eye over franchises to make sure they do the same. This level of caution and watchfulness could mean better employee treatment from every level of management.
Knowing how to pursue a labor or wage violation or another type of employment claim can be confusing, especially when there are different layers of management, franchises, and corporate offices with which to contend. You may not know who you may hold liable, or you may not realize that you may hold multiple parties liable for your mistreatment.