A franchisor may be liable for discriminatory policies of its franchisee

November 21st, 2014 by

Melanie Lindsey was an employee of Manna Foods. Manna Foods’s policy requires part-time employees to be available for midnight shifts. Melanie claims that this Policy is discriminatory as it has an adverse effect on her due to her child care obligations.

In Lindsey v McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Limited, 2014 HRTO 372 (CanLII), Melanie brought an application against Manna Foods and its franchisor, McDonalds. She claims that both Manna Foods and McDonalds discriminated against her because of her family status and her marital status. She also claims that they reprised against her contrary to the Human Rights Code.

McDonalds sought an order that the Application be dismissed against it. McDonalds claimed that as a franchisor, it does not have any participation in or control over the day to day operations of Manna Foods.

The Human Rights Tribunal held that it could not be determined at this stage in the proceedings whether:

(a)  McDonalds is legally responsible for the policies that Melanie alleges are discriminatory;

(b)   the franchise agreement or Manna Foods’ exercise of its obligations under that agreement were a factor in any discrimination experienced by Melanie; and

(c)   any discrimination in this case is connected to the “operational support” that McDonalds provides to Manna Foods.

The Human Rights Tribunal stated that the question of McDonald’s liability in this case should be determined following evidence and argument at hearing. She noted that this is consistent with the approach of the Tribunal in many similar cases.

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