Franchisors beware: The Federal Trade Commission is making it very easy for franchisees to file fraud complaints against you. In publicizing its fraud reporting tool – aptly named ReportFraud.FTC.gov – the FTC has fired another warning shot that it is ramping up enforcement efforts against you.
Greensfelder Officer Beata Krakus was recently featured by 1851 Franchise as a 2021 Top Franchise Legal Player. Check out the publication’s interview with Beata to find out what drew her to franchising, the most common mistake franchise brands make, and what she thinks is the biggest legal hurdle facing the franchising industry in 2022.
Dawn Johnson, Beata Krakus, Susan Meyer, Abby Risner, and Leonard Vines recently attended two virtual franchise programs – the International Franchise Association Annual Convention and the American Bar Association Forum on Franchising.
Greensfelder summer associate Kiran Jeevanjee contributed to this blog post.
Native American tribes occupy a unique position within the American legal system, and understanding these issues is vital for any franchisor considering a tribe as a potential franchisee. Federally recognized Native American tribes are classified as “domestic dependent nations” — meaning that the tribes are considered “distinct independent political communities” and can govern their own internal affairs. The most important consequence of this classification from a business perspective is that such tribes are entitled to tribal sovereign immunity that protects them from any civil suits or criminal prosecutions to which they did not consent.
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.
In the aftermath of a significant change in the joint employer standard this year, several states are attempting to address how franchisors are affected.
In August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released a decision in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc. d/b/a BFI Newby Recyclery, 362 NLRB No. 186 (Aug. 27, 2015), drastically expanding the standard for determining whether an entity was a joint employer. (See our blog post about it here). In doing so, the NLRB veered away from precedent that required a showing that a company exerted actual control over the employees of another company in order for the first company to be considered a joint employer.
Many states have seen attempts over the past several years to enact new franchise relationship legislation. California’s bills have made it further in the legislative process than those of other states, and by Sept. 30, we should know whether the latest attempt, bill AB 525, will make it all the way.
The smart money is betting that California Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the new bill that modifies certain provisions of the California Franchise Relations Act. The purpose of the bill is to give more protections to franchisees. Last year, the governor vetoed a similar but more franchisee-friendly bill (SB 610).
Today the Office of the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) took its next step in the investigation of labor practices within the McDonald’s franchise system and issued consolidated complaints against McDonald’s franchisees and the franchisor – McDonald’s USA, LLC on the theory that the franchisor is a joint employer with its franchisees. Consistent with General Counsel’s amicus brief in the Browning-Ferris matter that was filed this summer, the focus of the complaints appear to be on the use of technology and tools that allows franchisors insight and potential control over franchisee operations.
Recently, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana denied franchisor Steak n Shake’s motions to compel the non-binding arbitration of three consolidated lawsuits filed by three franchisees. The decision highlights the importance of a franchisor carefully monitoring and updating its dispute resolution policies in the context of the legal risks facing its system.
This month, Delaware passed a law to clarify that the franchisor/franchisee relationship is not an employment relationship. The law applies to relationships that are defined as a franchise under the Federal Trade Commission franchise rule.
As we previously discussed, some states - including Delaware now - are adopting legislation to clarify that franchises are independent contractors. These laws come in the wake of cases that find franchisees to have an employment relationship.