Judge: McDonald's Corp. not a joint employer in Bay Area workers' lawsuit

Dive Brief:

  • A federal judge in California ruled that McDonald’s Corp. is not a joint employer, as a lawsuit filed by franchisers’ employees claimed, Lexis Legal News reports. The fast food giant originally agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle the case. The recent decision gives the corporation partial summary judgment.
  • Judge Richard Seeborg concluded that the corporation doesn’t have direct or indirect control over the plaintiffs’ hiring, wages, work conditions or firing, writes Lexis. However, the judge did decide to let the plaintiffs’ claims challenge the state’s unfair competition law and Code of Civil Procedure 1060.
  • The judge also said that the plaintiffs could reasonably believe they worked for the corporation because they’re required to wear the McDonald’s uniform, follow corporate food preparation standards and greet patrons with the slogan: "Welcome to McDonald’s." ​

Dive Insight:

Although more “joint employer” claims have shown up in the courts, franchise owners are largely responsible for the daily operations of their franchises. Most owners understand their role as franchise buyers. The problem seems to stem from employees not knowing how franchises work. Employers might include in their new hires’ training the limitations of their connection to the corporation, along with their direct responsibilities to the franchise.

The judge gave the corporation a reprieve in the case. But employers should be aware that, if the plaintiffs’ present a strong enough case – despite franchise rules – a court could hold them liable for workers’ grievances. In this case, the plaintiffs didn’t refer to California’s unfair labor law in their arguments, but the judge allowed their complaint to challenge the law just the same.   

Filed Under: Legal Corporate News
Top image credit: Flickr user Mike Mozart