A new front has opened in the war to determine if McDonald’s, along with its franchisees, is liable as a joint employer for employment law violations.
Fifteen McDonald’s employees from across the nation have filed EEOC sexual harassment complaints in recent weeks, all asserting that the fast-food giant can be held jointly liable for Title VII violations.
The complaints come on top of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board alleging that McDonald’s Corp. and its franchisees are equally liable for unfair labor practices at the chain’s restaurants. That suit, being heard in a federal court in New York, is currently mired in an avalanche of pretrial motions.
The EEOC complaints allege that the fast-food workers were subjected to unwanted touching and sexual advances by co-workers and managers.
The Service Employees Interna-tional Union, which seeks to unionize fast-food workers, helped the employees file their complaints.
If the EEOC finds the charges have merit, it will try to resolve the complaints through its conciliation process. If that fails, it could decide to sue on the workers’ behalf or issue individual right-to-sue letters.
In an amicus brief filed in an unrelated case earlier this year, the EEOC indicated that it generally accepted the joint-employer liability standard that the NLRB set out in its landmark 2015 Browning-Ferris ruling.
That case significantly expanded the definition of a joint employer. The NLRB ruled that a company that hired workers through a temp agency was jointly liable with the agency for violations of the National Labor Relations Act.