Home Care Franchises Lose Battle Over Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage

Home care and other franchise workers in Seattle will receive the city’s $15 minimum wage by 2018, following a decision handed down Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The International Franchise Association (IFA) and certain businesses—including a BrightStar Care franchise owner—challenged a provision of the Seattle law, which treated local franchises of corporations such as McDonald’s to be part of the larger parent company. As such, the franchises would have to pay their employees at least $15 an hour by 2018, while companies classified as small businesses were given until 2021.

BrightStar Care co-founder and CEO Shelly Sun flew to Seattle to support franchise owner Kathy Lyons, who appeared before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last September. BrightStar is a home care and medical staffing company with about 300 franchises in 38 states.

“We’re not in any way against increases in minimum wage,” Sun told Home Health Care News at the time. “Our concern in Seattle is that franchises are being required to increase their minimum wage faster than independents are.”

The appeals court ultimately rejected the IFA’s arguments, and then the U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to take on the case.

“Today’s decision from the Supreme Court is clearly a disappointment as our appeal has always focused solely on the discriminatory treatment of franchisees under Seattle’s wage law and the motivation to discriminate against interstate commerce,” said IFA President & CEO Robert Cresanti in a prepared statement. “Seattle’s ordinance is blatantly discriminatory and affirmatively harms Seattle hard-working franchise small business owners every day since it has gone into effect.”

However, labor advocates argue that franchises are different than typical small businesses in several respects, such as in the access to loans and bulk purchasing afforded to them through their affiliation with much larger enterprises. These groups applauded the Supreme Court’s decision and characterized it as a defeat for big business, Reuters reported.

In other news related to home care wages, workers in Missouri will not be getting a wage increase that was proposed by the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services.

The increase was blocked by state lawmakers in February, but Democratic Governor Jay Nixon subsequently vetoed that bill. The state legislature on Tuesday overturned the veto; opponents of the wage hike, mostly Republicans, say the state agency overreached in promulgating the rule.

Written by Tim Mullaney

Photo Credit: “Seattle Skyline” by MaëlickCC BY-SA 2.0