Are Corporations or Franchises Responsible for Providing Safe Working Conditions?

Our Los Angeles Employment Attorneys Discuss Whether a Corporation Is Responsible for Working Conditions at Individual Franchises

McDonald’s is involved in a dispute with labor unions that could alter the level of responsibility the company has for labor practices among its franchisees. The National Labor Relations Board is hearing arguments between the corporation and labor unions, and the legal battle could go as far as the Supreme Court.

The case began when 19 workers from different franchises filed suit against McDonald’s after they were retaliated against at work for their pro-workers’ rights protests, including protests for a $15 minimum wage. At its most basic, the lawsuit would decide whether McDonald’s the corporation should be considered a joint employer with its franchises. This would mean the corporation would have to answer for accusations of wage violations, harassment and a slew of other labor violations at its franchise locations.

If the courts decide in favor of the labor unions, it would fundamentally change the official relationship of McDonald’s to its franchisees, as they would no longer be legally viewed as independent employers. Franchisees would become more subject to the rules and policies of the McDonald’s corporation.

However, if the courts decide in favor of McDonald’s, employees would continue to have to take their grievances to individual franchisees instead of the corporation. Effectively, this would reduce the power of workers from different franchises to work together for higher wages, benefits, freedom from harassment and more.

Reaching a Decision

The court could take a while to reach a decision, with some even estimating a decision could arrive later than 2016. McDonald’s franchises are considered independent businesses, and McDonald’s argues that they should remain so, as they have little power over the management of them. However, according to Catherine Ruckelshaus of the National Employment Law Project, McDonald’s will probably lose this fight, as it is clear that the corporation in fact does hold a significant degree of power over its franchises.

What Should I Do If I’m the Victim of Labor Law Violations?

If the McDonald’s case shows anything, it’s that labor law violations, harassment and other forms of work discrimination can happen in even the most widely known workplaces. Anyone who experiences violations of labor laws in their workplace has the right to seek legal restitution. The law protects workers from harassment, discrimination, wage theft, wrongful termination, retaliation for whistleblowing and more. Rather than allow violations to go unchallenged, McDonald’s workers have chosen to address the hardship they have faced by seeking help from the courts.

If you experience similar conditions, notifying your human resources manager is a good first step, but you may also need to speak with an attorney. Follow our blog to learn more about labor laws and what our Los Angeles employment attorneys may be able to do for you.