photo by R. Alan Clanton

Federal Judge Orders McDonald’s to Produce Emails

| published October 31, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

McDonald’s says that thousands of emails which were sent back and forth between employees and franchise owners and franchise managers are not relevant to a U.S. National Labor Relations Board inquiry into McDonald’s labor practices. The case, which is complex and multilayered, is expected to go before a court early next year, and will impact both collective bargaining and pay for McDonald’s employees nationwide.

But a federal judge this past week told McDonald’s attorneys that the correspondence—which includes not only thousands of emails, but also text messages, handwritten and typed letter and memos, phone records, and time sheet documents, are absolutely relevant, and the judge ordered McDonald’s executives and legal counsel to turn over the materials.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon gave McDonald’s 30 days to produce the relevant emails and correspondence. McDonald’s has maintained, in essence, that correspondence between franchisees and their own employee pools are irrelevant to McDonald’s corporate practices and procedures. Many of those franchisees are accused of multiple violations of federal labor laws, as well as violations of state standards and laws in multiple jurisdictions.

McDonald’s says it exerts no control over how those franchisees and affiliated owners manage or maintain their own labor standards. The iconic fast food chain also says it will be costly in the extreme to locate, collate and produce all of the correspondence being requested by the plaintiff’s investigators and attorneys.

Judge McMahon was having none of that argument this week, and she ordered McDonald’s to comply no later than the end of November. Her order validates what the NLRB has said for weeks—that because McDonald’s maintains a high degree of corporate control over all restaurant franchise owners, McDonald’s cannot hide behind the broad notion that it knows nothing about how franchisees maintain relations with their employees.

But the judge was also critical of attorneys for the NLRB, scolding them for waiting until the last minute to demand enforcement of a subpoena issued months ago. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s insists it may not make the tight deadline of 30 days to gather up all the relevant material.

McDonald’s lawyers complained that the case has already cost the company more than $1 million to produce some 162,000 pages of material relevant to the case.

The case comes to a head as several union-sponsored movements to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15.00. McDonald’s is one of several large employers facing heavy national criticism for maintaining a rock-bottom wage scale for many of its 420,000 employees. McDonald’s operates some 36,000 restaurants worldwide—about than half of which are located in the United States. The only U.S. company with more employees than McDonald’s is the retail giant Wal-Mart.

Almost all new employees of McDonald’s work at the federal minimum, but some employees, over time, may see wages ranging from $8.10 to $9.75 per hour. Managers average between $10 and $11.50 per hour. Scant few restaurant employees make more than $11.50 per hour.

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Wal-mart's Tough Times; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; October 19, 2015.

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