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NLRB piles on joint-employer charges against McDonald’s

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has upped the ante in its ongoing effort to brand McDonald’s USA a joint employer along with its franchisees in a series of claims that the fast-food giant engages in unfair labor practices.

On Feb. 12, the NLRB issued six new complaints involving 23 charges against McDonald’s parent company. That’s on top of 13 complaints involving 78 charges put forth in December.

That means McDonald’s USA could be found liable for any illegal employment practices committed by its franchisees. Franchise agreements typically insulate parent companies from liability for the illegal acts of their franchisees.

The NLRB charges allege that McDonald’s and its franchisees are equally liable for “allegations of discriminatory discipline, reductions in hours, discharges, and other coercive conduct directed at employees” who participated in 2014 protests demanding higher pay, better benefits and greater control over working hours. They contend they were subjected to “threats, surveillance, interrogations” and other forms of retaliation for participating in the protests.

An NLRB statement said, “Our investigation found that McDonald’s, USA, LLC, through its franchise relationship and its use of tools, resources and technology, engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations, beyond protection of the brand, to make it a putative joint employer with its franchisees, sharing liability for violations of” the National Labor Relations Act.

Litigation is scheduled to begin in March with trials before administrative law judges. No matter who wins, many of these cases will probably be appealed in federal court.

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