Burger King workers have been denied pay raises and opportunities for advancement because the fast-food giant illegally required franchise owners to agree not to hire each other’s workers during their employment or for six months afterward, a federal lawsuit charges.
The so-called “no hire” and “no solicitation” rules have been included in standard franchise agreements since at least 2010, according to the suit filed in early October in U.S. District Court in Miami.
The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of all U.S. Burger King workers past and present since 2010. It names Burger King Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc., both headquartered in Miami, as defendants.
Jarvis Arrington, a former line cook at a Chicago-area Burger King restaurant, is the lead plaintiff.
Arrington was earning $10 an hour when he attempted “to increase his pay rate and better his working conditions” by trying and failing to get a job at another Burger King restaurant in Chicago, the suit states.
After being told his transfer would need to be approved, he did not hear back from the restaurant to which he had applied, and sought employment outside of Burger King, the suit said.
Burger King Corp. on Monday did not respond to requests for comment about the lawsuit.
“No solicitation” clauses have been a common part of franchise contracts within the fast-food industry and have recently come under fire for suppressing wages and opportunities for already low-paid workers throughout the United States.
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Unlike “non-compete” clauses that employees are often required to sign when they begin a job, workers are often unaware of the existence of “no solicitation” clauses until they try to move to a location owned by another franchisee.