On April 1, the US Department of Labor proposed a new rule seeking to narrow the application of joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A finding of joint employer status can impose joint and several liability on a business along with the hiring employer for the employee’s wages. By narrowing the test, the proposal brings potential good news to franchise businesses in particular.

The proposal outlines a “four-factor balancing test” for the Department to apply collectively in its assessment of whether a business is a joint employer with another.


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On June 14, franchisors received good news when the US District Court in the Eastern District of Illinois ruled that Jimmy John’s Franchise, LLC is not a joint employer of its franchisees’ employees.

In 2014, former employees of various Jimmy John’s franchisees brought a collective action against their former franchisee employers and against Jimmy John’s

On August 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor and Doctors Associates Inc. (Subway Restaurants) announced a voluntary agreement formalizing their ongoing collaboration.  This agreement is a first of its kind and seeks to ensure that franchise owners have the tools necessary to comply with wage and hour laws.  Since 2012, Subway has made available a platform for the DOL to provide training and resources to franchisees.  Despite the DOL’s efforts, other companies have reportedly been reluctant to enter into similar agreements due to fears that other government agencies will use such an agreement as evidence of a joint employer relationship.  Interestingly, Subway has been collaborating with the DOL for over three years and although this collaboration has been very much in the public eye, no agency has indicated that such a relationship would make them a joint employer.  The DOL hopes the fact that Subway, the world’s largest franchisor, entered into the compliance agreement will encourage other companies to follow suit.  Given the various government agencies’ joint employer efforts, all companies, whether franchisors or not, should analyze their own specific circumstances before entering into a similar agreement.
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