Patterson v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC: Franchisor Not Liable As An “Employer” For Sexual Harassment By Franchisee Employee


by Sayema Hameed

Is a franchisor liable for the wrongful acts of a franchisee employee? ┬áThe short answer is, “It depends.” ┬áThe longer answer involves an analysis of whether the franchisor demonstrates the characteristics of an “employer” under California law.

In a recent case, Patterson v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC (Cal. Sup. Ct. Case No. S204543, filed August 28, 2014), the California Supreme Court held that a franchisor, Domino’s Pizza, LLC, did not satisfy the criteria to be deemed an “employer” and was, therefore, not vicariously liable for alleged sexual harassment by a franchisee employee (a male supervisor) against another franchisee employee (a female subordinate employee).

Specifically, the franchisor here was not involved in the day-to-day decisions involving hiring, supervision, and discipline of the employees, and nothing in the franchise agreement contractually required or allowed the franchisor to make or control such employment decisions.