The Chicago Journal

Legal Battle Unveiled: McDonald’s Confronts Antitrust Claims Involving Employee ‘Poaching’

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The News

In a recent development, a U.S. appeals court has reignited a legal dispute involving McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N), a global fast-food giant.

The company is facing allegations of violating federal antitrust law by imposing restrictions on franchisees, preventing them from recruiting employees from each other’s establishments.

The case revolves around the controversial “no-poaching” agreements, which have sparked a nationwide discussion on their legality and implications.

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Revival of Claims by Appeals Court

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has breathed new life into the antitrust claims against McDonald’s. The court’s decision came as a response to the dismissal of a proposed nationwide class action last year.

The initial judge’s ruling failed to comprehensively assess the validity of the “no-poaching” agreements, leading to a revival of the legal battle.

Scrutinizing the “No-Poaching” Agreements

While the agreements were initially deemed valid by the judge due to their role in safeguarding franchisees’ investments in employee training, the 7th Circuit raised pivotal questions. The court emphasized the need for a closer examination of whether these agreements should apply universally across the country and whether their duration, extending six months beyond an employee’s departure, is justifiable.

Deeper Analysis Required

Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook stressed that the questions surrounding the “no-poaching” agreements extend beyond a simplistic assessment. He noted that a broader consideration is essential and that the impact of these agreements can’t be measured solely by the expansion of food output as presented in individual franchise contracts.

Silent Responses and Legal Standpoint

Curiously, neither McDonald’s nor the plaintiffs’ legal representatives provided immediate comments following the latest court decision. The silence adds to the intrigue surrounding the case, leaving room for speculation about potential strategic moves from both sides.

Revisiting the 2022 Ruling

The case centers on two former McDonald’s workers who are challenging a 2022 ruling by U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso in Chicago. This initial ruling dismissed claims that the “no-poaching” agreements hindered competition and suppressed wages.

The agreements, which barred franchisees from recruiting individuals who had previously worked at other McDonald’s establishments within the United States for six months after their departure, are at the heart of the dispute.

Evolution of McDonald’s Practices

McDonald’s has taken steps to alter its stance on “no-poaching” agreements, as reflected in court filings. The company announced in 2017 that it would no longer require franchisees to enter into such agreements.

This shift aligns with a broader trend among major fast-food companies, which have also distanced themselves from these agreements due to increasing scrutiny and state-level investigations.

Strong Allies and Allegations of Wage Suppression

Support for the plaintiffs’ appeal has come from notable sources. The Biden administration and Democratic attorneys general from 20 states and Washington, D.C. have submitted court briefs, contending that the “no-poaching” agreements orchestrated by McDonald’s unlawfully contribute to the suppression of workers’ wages. This support bolsters the plaintiffs’ position in their legal battle.

Class Certification Reconsideration

The 7th Circuit not only reinstated the claims but also urged the district court judge to reevaluate his decision to not certify a nationwide class in the lawsuit. McDonald’s has suggested that the class could encompass millions of workers, underscoring the potentially extensive impact of the legal proceedings.

The Text Message Exchange: Insights into Kempczinski’s Perspective

The revelations from court filings unveiled a candid exchange between Kempczinski and Mayor Lightfoot. Kempczinski referenced the unfortunate shooting incidents of a 7-year-old girl at a Chicago McDonald’s and another child within the city.

He conveyed his opinion that the parents of the children had failed them, an assertion he recognized as a sensitive and complex matter. The messages, while raw and unfiltered, ultimately highlighted his evolving perspective.

A Public Apology: Acknowledging and Rectifying a Narrow Worldview

Following the disclosure of the text messages, Kempczinski took to the public platform to express remorse and acknowledge the limitations of his viewpoint. He openly admitted that the text messages revealed a narrow worldview he was committed to rectifying.

This instance showcased the CEO’s willingness to engage in self-reflection and work towards personal growth, underlining the importance of humility and continuous improvement in leadership roles.

Inadequate Response: Peaster’s Evaluation of Kempczinski’s Actions

A significant ripple effect emerged within McDonald’s corporate headquarters, as Peaster, the company’s vice president of global safety, security, and intelligence, evaluated Kempczinski’s response to the incident. Peaster opined that the CEO’s reaction was inadequate, highlighting the need for empathy and compassion for families residing in challenging communities. This perspective illuminated the broader implications of corporate leadership on societal issues.

Internal Dynamics and Allegations: Retaliation and Termination

Subsequent to the evaluation meeting, an internal power struggle seemed to unfold. Allegations emerged that Kempczinski and other executives retaliated against Peaster.

They reportedly refused to meet with him and created barriers that hindered his job performance. Ultimately, Peaster was terminated in November of the same year, ostensibly due to alleged performance concerns.

The lawsuit he filed shed light on the intricacies of workplace dynamics, accountability, and consequences.

Seeking Justice: Peaster’s Legal Pursuit

Peaster’s lawsuit sought not only to address his termination but also to claim damages for emotional distress. The legal action aimed to hold the organization accountable for its alleged actions, sparking conversations about workplace ethics, leadership responsibility, and the legal recourse available to employees facing adverse conditions.


The revived legal battle between McDonald’s and former workers sheds light on the contentious issue of “no-poaching” agreements within the fast-food industry. As the case unfolds, it highlights the need for a comprehensive assessment of such agreements’ implications on competition, wages, and the broader employment landscape.