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Supreme Court Won't Hear Seattle Case


The IFA's Robert Cresanti

A group of franchisees and the IFA won’t get their day in the Supreme Court in their lawsuit against the City of Seattle over a mandated minimum wage, now that the high court yesterday refused to take up the case.

The issue isn’t the minimum wage itself, which will rise to $15 an hour, but rather that the city ordinance treats franchisee-owned businesses as large employers like their corporate franchisors instead of as small, individually owned shops, and requires them to phase in the new wage more quickly. The suit called that aspect of the new law discriminatory and a violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

In a ruling in September, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco supported Seattle’s law, and the Supreme Court yesterday let that ruling stand. Gregory Narver, an attorney for the city, welcomed the high court’s action because it clears the way for the law to be implemented.

In a statement, Robert Cresanti of the International Franchise Association expressed disappointment in the ruling. “Seattle’s ordinance is blatantly discriminatory and affirmatively harms Seattle’s hard-working franchise small-business owners every day since it has gone into effect,” he said. “We are simply attempting to level the playing field for the 600 local franchise business owners employing 19,000 people in Seattle.

Cresanti said the IFA is reviewing the opinion to evaluate next steps in the appeal.

Late last year, Cresanti told Franchise Times the Seattle case, originally filed in 2014 with a group of Seattle-based franchisees and the IFA as plaintiffs, has been expensive yet necessary.

“I cannot lie to you and say it hasn’t been an incredible drain financially and staff resource-wise for us internally, but it’s an issue that has to be taken up,” Cresanti said. “It’s been an enormous amount of money. It’s been an enormous amount of money because of the complexity and the folks involved.”

At the time, he noted that other related cases were making their way through other courts, and so another case may yet make it to the Supreme Court. “There is a divergence in the circuits right now,” he said, referring to circuit courts of appeal. “So we have a chance in the Supreme Court of getting this heard.”


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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at




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