Franchisors and franchisees are separate companies and therefore franchisors should not be responsible for employment matters at the independent  franchisees’ stores. At least that is what we thought until the National Labor Relations Board Office of the General Counsel just announced that it has issued complaints against McDonald’s franchisees and their franchisor, McDonald’s USA, LLC, alleging that McDonald’s USA, LLC, together with its franchisees, are both responsible for the franchisees’ violation of the rights of employees working at McDonald’s restaurants at various locations around the country. The Office of General Counsel alleges that unlawful actions were taken against employees in response to employee activities aimed at improving wages and working conditions, including employees participating in nationwide fast food worker protests about the terms and conditions of their employment. The General Counsel maintains that McDonald’s USA, LLC is liable because it is a “joint employer.” If the courts embrace this theory of liability, it will be a major departure from what Franchisors understood were their obligations, and will likely cause many to carefully reconsider the language in their Franchise Agreements in order to make sure they are fully protected against liability resulting from the mistakes of their franchisees.