U.S. labor agency files complaints against McDonald's

Fri Dec 19, 2014 6:03pm EST
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By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) - McDonald's Corp (MCD.N: Quote) and some of its franchisees were named jointly in complaints filed on Friday by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board's Office of the General Counsel, accusing them of labor violations in a widely anticipated move that could have wide-reaching implications for businesses.

Complaints were filed in 78 cases claiming that McDonald's workers across the country were fired or intimidated for participating in union organizing and in a national protest movement calling for higher wages.

The complaints strike new ground in treating McDonald's, the world's largest restaurant chain, as a "joint employer," meaning that it could be held liable along with its franchisees for any violations, the NLRB's general counsel, Richard Griffin, said in a release.

Until now, McDonald’s and other companies that make wide use of franchises and contract employers have been insulated from such liability under the NLRB’s previous definition of what constituted a joint employer.

A McDonald's spokeswoman said the company and franchisees would fight the claims.

"These allegations are driven in large part by a two-year, union-financed campaign that has targeted the McDonald’s brand and impacted McDonald’s restaurants," said Lisa McComb, a company spokeswoman.

The complaints will be considered by administrative law judges beginning in March 2015; the decisions can be appealed to the five-member NLRB and ultimately to federal courts.

While Friday's move was the first step in a long process, it has the potential to rewrite long-held rules governing labor relations between parent companies and franchises that are run as independent businesses.   Continued...

A McDonald's restaurant is pictured in Encinitas, California September 9, 2014.   REUTERS/Mike Blake