A federal judge has rebuffed McDonald’s request that it be spared certain requirements of a subpoena issued by the National Labor Relations Board in its investigation of the quick-service franchisor as a joint employer.
The ruling will oblige McDonald’s to turn over more than the 160,000 pages it has already surrendered to NLRB authorities, at a cost estimated by the chain at more than $1 million.
It also provides the NLRB with more material to mine for evidence that McDonald’s does indeed have an influence on the employment policies and practices of its franchisees and should then be treated as a joint employer. That designation would make McDonald’s liable for the actions of franchisees, who traditionally have been solely responsible for their treatment of employees.
Among the items that McDonald’s had hoped it would not have to find and forward were emails between headquarters staff members and franchisees. The NLRB has contended that those communications could reveal an influence on the franchisees’ employees. McDonald’s has maintained that the ones covered in the subpoena were not relevant.
It has also redacted some of the documents that were passed along to the NLRB, prompting the agency to seek a directive from a court that information not be masked.
Reuters reported that McDonald’s request for some exceptions to the subpoena was rejected with some exasperation by the presiding judge. It quoted U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon as telling McDonald’s counsel, “You're not even close to proving that the burden on McDonald's would outweigh the relevance" and to stop “playing games.”
But McMahon also scolded the NLRB for waiting too long to request the documents. She noted that the agency had 200 requests for a variety of documents to be located and forwarded by McDonald’s.
McDonald’s contended in its legal motion that the subpoena was likely one of the broadest every issued by the Board.