In another twist in the ongoing battle between fast food workers and their employers, CNN Money reported late last week that employees are now suing both their employers and the owner of the franchise where they work, in an effort to curb Wage and Hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Common Wage and Hour violations occur when an employee is required to clock out at closing time, but then must continue to work off the clock to clean the restaurant. The author of the article reports parent corporations, including McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, have distanced themselves from liability under the FLSA by explaining that it is the responsibility of each franchise owner to comply with all state and federal laws.
While the Department of Labor has been investigating Wage and Hour violations by franchise owners for many years, the 2013 protests by fast food workers, who walked off the job in an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15, have generated debate about larger issues of income inequality that likely led to this litigation surrounding liability for Wage and Hour claims.
With the onslaught of these lawsuits, parent corporations may need to change their policies with regard to franchisees. The CNN article suggests that providing education to fast food franchise owners may help to avoid costly complaints down the road. But any employer with franchises, whether in the fast food industry or not, should continue to monitor this issue and consult counsel to avoid any violations of the FLSA.