Franchisees are not employees, confirms US Court
posted on 13th April 2018
A court in California has dismissed a class action by four franchisees of 7-Eleven which claimed that, because of the control the franchise exercises, they had been misclassified as independent contractors and were entitled to damages under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the California Labor Code. including overtime compensation and expenses incurred in operating their stores such as payroll costs, maintenance, cleaning and uniforms. The lawsuit purported to have been brought on behalf of all of the over 1,500 7-Eleven franchise locations operating in California. The Court found that that 7-Eleven's alleged controls did 'not exceed what is necessary to protect 7-Eleven's trademark, trade name, and good will.'
The case will be of considerable interest given recent law changes in Australia which make franchisors responsible for franchisees' employment breaches, thereby blurring the long-established line between franchisor and franchisee.
Quoting extensively from Patterson v. Domino's Pizza, LLC, 60 Cal. 4th 474 (2014), the court observed that franchisees acquire a business plan that the franchisor "has created for all of its stores," and that the plan "requires the franchisee to follow a system of standards and procedures." Haitayan, 2018 WL 1626248, at *2 (quoting Patterson, 60 Cal. 4th at 489). The court also noted that the goal in franchising, "which benefits both parties to the contract, is to build and keep customer trust by ensuring consistency and uniformity in the quality of goods and services, the dress of franchise employees, and the design of the store themselves." Id. (quoting Patterson, 60 Cal. 4th at 490).