From The District Sentinel:
by Sam Knight
A federal judge in California allowed class action wage theft litigation to proceed against McDonald's, on the grounds that a jury could find it guilty of negligence.
Judge Richard Seeborg said Tuesday that the lawsuit against the corporation may continue under the "ostensible agency theory."
The doctrine holds an actor responsible for the fault of another, if victims reasonably believe that the perpetrator committed wrongdoing in the employ of said actor.
The case involves McDonald's franchise co-owners, Bobby and Carol Haynes, who operate eight restaurants in Northern California. Leading the class are three women who work in one of their Oakland restaurants: Guadalupe Salazar, Judith Zarate, and Genoveva Lopez.
"Looking at the record, there is considerable evidence, albeit subject to dispute, that McDonalds caused plaintiffs reasonably to believe Haynes was acting as its agent," Seeborg ruled.
"[P]laintiffs submit they sought employment at McDonalds because it 'is a large corporation with many stores around the world,' 'would involve a steady job in a safe environment,' and 'would make sure [they were] paid and treated correctly, because it is a large corporation with standardized systems,'" he also said.
Seeborg also noted that the plaintiffs "believed both they and Haynes worked for McDonalds" (emphasis his).
Retail corporations have absolved themselves of much legal responsibility for working conditions they heavily influence by arguing that they are not "joint employers." They simply oversee a system of franchises and contractors, without directly impacting terms of employment, their lawyers often successfully argue.
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