On April 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) offered a simplified test in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to determine whether two entities should be considered joint employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA provides that two entities can be jointly and severally responsible for an employee’s wages, and thus the potential FLSA violations of either entity, if they function as joint employers. The notice sets out that the employment relationship should be determined based on a balance of four factors, specifically, whether a potential joint employer actually exercises the power to:
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Jan. 25, 2019, overturned its 2014 ruling in FedEx Home Delivery and returned to its long-standing independent-contractor standard. In affirming its reliance on the traditional common-law employment classification test, the board clarified how entrepreneurial opportunity factors into its determination of independent-contractor status.
In a case pending in the Northern District of Illinois, a court granted a motion to dismiss Petroleum Marketing Practices Act (PMPA) claims brought pertaining to two unbranded motor fuel stations. The court, however, refused to dismiss claims on the question of the validity of termination pursuant to the PMPA as to a third station. All three stations were supplied motor fuel by Lehigh Gas Wholesale, LP pursuant to supply agreements executed with each of the locations. One station sold Marathon-branded fuel and it was undisputed that the PMPA applied to that supply agreement. The two other stations were supplied unbranded motor fuel and did not have authorization to sell under any third-parties’ trademark.
After repeated delays, the compliance deadline for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new federal menu labeling rules — requiring disclosure of nutrition information for standard menu items — is set for May 7, 2018. After repeatedly being postponed, the FDA announced that the rules will not be postponed any longer and will be enforced as of that date.
A Georgia federal court recently found that a person who did not sign a franchise agreement was nevertheless bound by it. That was good news for a franchisor caught between two parties who claimed no responsibility for violating the franchise agreement by opening a competing business in the same franchise location.
Most franchisors will be happy to hear that the NLRB on Dec. 14 nixed the Browning-Ferris expansion of the joint employer doctrine, which has been of concern to the franchise industry for several years. The new case is Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Ltd. and Brandt Construction Co, 361 NLRB No. 156 (Dec. 14, 2017). Even though the board held that Hy-Brand and Brandt are collectively joint employers for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, the joint employer standard applied is a significant departure from the Browning-Ferris standard.
Unlike some states’ franchise laws, the Missouri Franchise Act gives limited protection to franchisees. However, it does provide that if a franchisor fails to give 90 days’ notice of cancellation or termination, the franchisee may be awarded “damages sustained, to include loss of goodwill, costs of suit, and any equitable relief that the court deems proper.” A recent case provided much-needed clarification on how damages are measured if a franchisor fails to give a proper notice of termination.
SBA-backed loans have long been an important source of funding for many franchisees, but in the past several years, the system has been in flux. Changes will again be implemented on Jan. 1, 2018, and franchisors should ensure they are ready.
The enforceability of class action waivers in arbitration provisions has been debated for years in courts across the country, including in several cases before the United States Supreme Court. This week, Congress weighed in on the ongoing debate.
A nearly 10-year-old Illinois privacy law that has sparked class action lawsuits against familiar tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Shutterfly has moved into the franchise industry.
Following in the footsteps of claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, class action lawyers are now filing lawsuits under Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) alleging that companies are unlawfully collecting biometric information from customers and employees through devices such as fingerprint scanners. Plaintiffs are suing both franchisors and franchisees. Franchisors are being sued for collecting the information themselves for their own employees and also for the actions of their franchisees on theories of joint and several liability, vicarious liability, agency and alter ego. A recently filed case alleges that a franchisor mandates and controls virtually every aspect of its franchise locations, including the use of certain equipment that collects biometric information to track employees’ time and attendance and to monitor cash register systems for fraud. Other cases allege that franchisors and franchisees are using it to track health and fitness information and authenticate customers’ transactions.