The National Labor Relations Board Office of the General Counsel last week issued 13 complaints involving 78 charges against fast-food giant McDonald’s USA and McDonald’s franchisees, as joint employers. 

The NLRB’s complaints, filed Dec. 19, allege that the conduct by the “joint employers” violated the rights of employees. As Compliance Week previously reported, the complaints could have far-reaching effects for McDonald’s, and others that rely on a franchise model, in that it opens the door to unionization and other organized worker demands for wage increases and improved working conditions.

Specifically, the NLRB alleges that McDonald’s USA and McDonald’s franchisees engaged in “discriminatory discipline, reductions in hours, discharges, and other coercive conduct directed at employees in response to union and protected concerted activity, including threats, surveillance, interrogations, promises of benefit, and overbroad restrictions on communicating with union representatives or with other employees about unions and the employees’ terms and conditions of employment.”

Of 291 charges filed since 2012, the NLRB has found 86 cases meritorious. “While representatives of the Office of the General Counsel have been engaged in efforts to settle the matter with the parties, thus far, those efforts have largely been unsuccessful,” the NLRB stated.

Representatives of the Office of the General Counsel said they will continue efforts to settle the charges. Additionally, of the 291 charges filed, 11 cases were resolved and 71 cases remain under investigation. 

“In the interest of conserving public and private resources and to avoid unnecessary delay, the NLRB has scheduled consolidated hearings in three regional locations in the Northeast, Midwest and the West to address violations that require immediate remedial relief,” the NLRB stated.

Absent a settlement, the initial litigation will commence on March 30, 2015, and will involve allegations of unlawful actions committed against employees at McDonald’s restaurants in the jurisdiction of six regional offices. Specifically, these six regional offices are Manhattan, Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

According to the NLRB, hearings involving the allegations in the complaints issued by the other seven regional offices will be scheduled after the initial litigation before an Administrative Law Judge, if those allegations cannot be resolved through settlement.  

In a statement, McDonald’s said it is “disappointed with the Board’s decision to overreach and move forward with these charges, and will contest the joint employer allegation as well as the unfair labor practice (ULP) charges in the proper forums.”

“It is important to understand that the ULP complaints issued by the NLRB merely contain allegations that the NLRB has decided deserve further fact-finding before an administrative law judge,” McDonald’s stated. “These complaints are not determinations or rulings on the facts of the cases; the final resolution of these complaints will require a lengthy process. Our independent owner/operators have informed us that they will contest the ULP charges as well.”