Franchisor-Franchisee Independence and Joint Liability, Redux
As recently reported by BlueMauMau.org, the franchisor of the Tilted Kilt restaurant franchise system has recently been sued by several employees of its Chicago-based franchisee. The complaint arises out of alleged sexual harassment perpetrated by the franchisee himself.
Last year I wrote about franchisors being exposed to liability based on the conduct of their franchisees, but the issue is so important for all parties involved that several points bear repeating.
In the Tilted Kilt case, the franchisor allegedly published an “employee handbook” for franchisees to distribute to their staff, and exerted significant control over the operation of the franchised outlet in question. If true, these are two factors that typically weigh in favor of finding the franchisor to be a “joint employer” with its franchisee, thereby potentially subjecting it to liability for the alleged harassment.
Franchisors are supposed to provide support to their franchisees, and at its core, a franchise system is about building a cohesive, structured and predictable network of franchised outlets.
Even so, franchisors need to maintain an adequate degree of separation between themselves and their franchisees. Franchises are supposed to be “independently owned and operated,” and this is legally significant. Failure to maintain sufficient distinctions between the franchisor and the franchisee may result in the litigation situation presented in the Tilted Kilt case.
When preparing operations manuals, employment forms, and other documentation that you want your franchisees to use, do so in a way that requires franchisees to identify and maintain these distinctions. There are several effective ways to maintain uniformity and standards while also creating separation between franchisor and franchisee.
However, when a franchisor fails to impose adequate barriers between itself and the businesses carried on by its franchisees, customers, employees, and even the franchisees themselves may be able to make a colorable claim against the franchisor. If the franchisor doesn’t have documentation to back up its claim of independence (or worse, if there is documentation to the contrary), then it might just be faced with multi-party litigation.
Understanding Franchise Opportunity Rankings: The Entrepreneur Franchise 500
The Franchise 500 list is the most well-known and commonly cited of the various franchise rankings, but some confusion surrounds the methodology behind Entrepreneur's ratings. Through a series of articles on FranchiseHelp.com, we'll take a closer look at what goes into compiling these rankings (those from Entrepreneur and those from other sources) and what a prospective franchise buyer can glean from them when trying to make an informed decision about joining a particular franchise system.
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MinorityFran Changing the Game for Minorities in Franchising
As far as the incentives go, there are three main categories that franchisors tend to work with when they're looking to increase access to their systems for minorities. The most popular method used, by far, is to offer discounts on initial franchise fees. The second most popular incentive offered to minorities by franchisors is financing assistance and other discounts to help pay off the sizable franchising fees that new franchisees incur. Finally, in rare instances, franchisors offer minority franchisees administrative and development support above and beyond what they provide to the non-minority franchisees in the system. Here is a list of franchises that have gone the extra mile to reach out to minorities looking to get involved in franchising.