On July 16, Administrative Law Judge Lauren Esposito rejected a proposed settlement between McDonald’s USA and the General Counsel National Labor Relations Board, in large part because it would have little actual impact on the workers affected by McDonald’s unfair labor practices.
In 2012 McDonald’s workers complained of retaliation for supporting “Fight for $15,” a nationwide campaign for better wages. Since then, Levy Ratner partner Micah Wissinger has tirelessly advocated for workers who were “illegally fired and harassed for fighting to get off food stamps and out of poverty.” In 2014, the General Counsel of the NLRB issued complaints against McDonald’s, followed by 3+ years of litigation in what developed into the largest case in agency history, spanning over 150 days of trial and requiring litigation before six federal courts. Throughout her decision Judge Esposito noted the ways that McDonald’s complicated and delayed the proceedings in “extraordinary” fashion. The inadequate settlement between McDonald’s and the new Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel, Peter Robb, did not satisfy Judge Esposito because McDonald’s would have no actual obligation toward the affected workers.
The key legal question in the case is whether McDonald’s is a “joint employer” of the workers hired by its franchisees. If it is deemed a joint employer, it would be liable for the violations of the franchisees.