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Judge denies request to give Seattle franchisees more time on $15 wage

A federal judge yesterday denied a request by service-industry associations and their members to give franchisees in Seattle more time to raise the wages they pay to at least $15 an hour.

Instead, franchises will be required to begin escalating their pay on April 1, the trigger date for what is defined in the legislative mandate as big businesses, or employers with more than 500 employees. Franchisees were lumped into that category if they were part of a chain that employees 500 employees systemwide.

The minimum big businesses will be required to pay as of April 1 is $11 an hour, compared with the current $9.47.

The International Franchise Association, the National Restaurant Association and other groups had filed a lawsuit seeking to reclassify franchisees, arguing that the current designation as large businesses is discriminatory. An independent restaurant that employs several dozen employees is granted seven years to raise its wages to $15 an hour. A franchise restaurant with the exact same number of employees would have only three years because it is part of a national or regional chain.

According to the IFA, the area’s 600 franchisees employ an average of 32 people each, or about 12 staffers per location.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones rejected the request for an injunction.

The IFA and the NRA issued statements yesterday, both vowing to continue their efforts to change the way franchisees are classified.

The $15-an-hour wage would be the highest in the country.

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