More Complaints Against McDonald’s for Possible Joint-Employer Liability

Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued six additional unfair labor practice complaints against McDonald’s USA LLC, bringing the total since November 2012 to 310. Of those, 149 have been closed, 54 are pending, and 107 have been determined to “have merit.” Traditionally, parent corporations have not been liable for the unfair labor practices of their franchisees, but many of these charges aim to change this standard.

According to the NLRB, the complaints with merit include allegations of discharges, reductions in hours, and instances of discriminatory discipline, all directed at employees in response to union involvement or other protected, concerted activity.

The NLRB’s McDonald’s Fact Sheet states that the company, “through its franchise relationship and its use of tools, resources, and technology, engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations” to make it a jointly liable with its franchisees for violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

The NLRB’s targeting of parent corporations represents a major departure in the decades-long precept that joint liability did not exist between parent corporations and their franchisees. The new approach will have ramifications for companies in training and compliance.