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.
A former McDonald’s employee has brought a class action lawsuit against the franchisees of 16 McDonald’s locations in Pennsylvania (the franchisor is not named in the suit), claiming their practice of paying employees via mandatory payroll debit cards is unfair and illegal.
The Second Circuit held that two trial franchisees properly asserted an action under the PMPA when their franchisor failed to comply with the notice provisions under the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act (“PMPA”) prior to terminating their franchises.