McDonald’s handed over thousands of heavily redacted company documents in response to a subpoena from federal labor officials, according to reports Wednesday.
The subpoena request was part of an ongoing federal case against McDonald’s. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has aggressively pursued the company over a series of unfair labor practice complaints. The fast-food chain noted the redacted portions of the documents were not relevant to the complaint. The Washington Examiner reports that in response, the NLRB asked the courts in September to force the company to comply.
“The NLRB’s General Counsel has brought an action in Federal Court to enforce a massive subpoena,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “McDonald’s will vigorously argue that the subpoena is overly broad and excessive.”
McDonald’s also asserts it has complied in a fair way, producing more than 160,000 pages of material. The NLRB says the redacted information is not privileged and therefore the company must give it up.
“To the extent any document has been redacted, it was to protect sensitive and personal information not relevant to the issues in this case,” the spokeswoman also noted. “Such a redaction is recognized by the Federal Courts as appropriate.”
The NLRB says it has been requesting the documents since December. The case against McDonald’s involved whether the corporation should be considered a joint-employer over the individual businesses to which they contract.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, a company can be considered an employer over another franchisee if the company has direct control over individual employees’ wages, benefits and other employment details. The change makes it so the standard is determined in a case by case basis and allows the NLRB to declare joint-employer status for control factors that go behind just employment or aspects of employment that weren’t previously viewed as a basis to meet the standard. Usually the standard helps to resolve labor disputes when it’s not clear what company the dispute arose from.
Cases involving McDonald’s, CNN, and Browning-Ferris have allowed the NLRB to revisit the standard. With the decision that has already been made, the board seems determined to expand the standard to include more businesses that contract with one another. The NLRB has defended the potential changes saying franchisors oftentimes have too much control over the independent franchisees for them to be considered their own independent operations.
Republican lawmakers and business leaders say that expanding the standard could undermine contracting and the franchise model. Many different businesses rely on franchising and contracting. Restaurants, cleaners, staffing agencies and retailers are just a few broad examples.
Additionally, some critics have said the decision to expand the standard is to benefit unions. If every franchisee under a corporate brand is suddenly considered one labor operation, unions have the option of organizing the entire thing, as opposed to each individual business within the system.
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