The franchising industry is getting some backup from Congress in the joint employer debate.
On Thursday, three lawmakers released a letter to the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Richard Griffin, requesting an explanation for the board's decision to hold franchisors as joint employers in labor violation cases. The letter, addressed from Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), requests that Griffin produce documents and communication over the last few months relating to the joint employer standard.
In addition to requesting explanation for the decision, the letter expresses concerns that Griffin attempted to hold franchisors liable as joint employers despite understanding that he did not have the legal grounds to do so.
"[Griffin] stated, ‘in that area we have a problem, legally, for our theory’ to hold franchisors as joint employers," the letter states. "Despite this admission, only months later on December 19, 2014, [Griffin] issued complaints against a franchisor as a joint employer."
The letter points to instances of Griffin arguing for the expansion of joint-employer relationships to allow for more meaningful collective bargaining as evidence that the NLRB's recent decisions are essentially labor reform without the necessary legal underpinnings.
The International Franchise Association has similarly framed the joint employer decision as a legally suspect play to support labor unions, specifically highlighting the involvement of the Service Employees International Union in the efforts. Since the NLRB's decision to consider McDonald's corporate a joint employer in July 2014, the IFA and other franchise industry groups have loudly protested the move, calling it a decision that could tear the franchise model apart.