Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – A New Jersey Congressman implied that a businessman cared more about his fast food product than his employees during workplace liability hearings on Capitol Hill this week.
During the testimony of Jerry Reese, director of franchise development for Dat Dog, a New Orleans based hot dog restaurant chain, Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., said "There is a fundamental problem here today for the American worker when an employer, whether a franchisee or franchisor, cares more about their hotdogs than they do about worker safety,” Norcross said.
Reese was testifying before Congress on behalf of the International Franchise Association about how the National Labor Relations Board’s (NRLB) expanded legal liability for employers, or joint employment, presents problems for franchisers.
According to HR Drive, Reese testified that joint employment is the “most prominent risk on our minds,” and urged Congress to intervene. Reese said, according to HR Drive, that the expanded liability has left employers between a rock and a hard place. If they choose to set training, branding and consistency standards, they risk being labeled a joint employer.
Joint employer is a term that applies to an employer who may have legal liability for an employee working for another organization the employer has a close relationship with — such as a company that hires a temporary worker from a staffing agency. In that example, both employers are joint employers.
In the past, the standard only applied when one business was in “direct control” over the other’s workforce. But during the Obama administration, the NLRB expanded the definition to those who had “indirect control” over the other’s workforce. The NLRB has used the new definition to go after McDonald’s for the working conditions employees faced at some of the McDonald’s franchises — which merely rented the brand from the larger organization.
Opponents argue that the change has hurt small businesses and startups.
But defenders of the new definition, like labor unions and labor advocates, say the policy is indicative of the changing employment landscape, and that changes would only affect larger employers.
Small business owners disagreed.
"Make no mistake about it: this policy disproportionally affects small businesses. Big corporations have the resources, the attorneys, and the economies of scale to adapt to joint employer. If they're slapped with a joint employer claim, they can better afford to defend themselves and weather the storm. It's the small employers like Dat Dog that may run out of resources before we even get started," Reese testified, according to HR Drive.
Ally Kehoe, Norcross's spokeswoman, said the comment was not directed at Reese. In a statement to WorkersCompensation.com, Norcross said, “I was not intending to offend any individual. What I do find offensive is a system where brands are more protected than worker safety."
Reese told the Washington Examiner that he was pretty sure the comments were directed at him, but that they were unfounded. His business, he said, has not had any serious workplace injuries.
"What he said has no basis in reality. We love our employees," he said. "That's why we want to be able to franchise the business. That's why I was here to testify."
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