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Tim Hortons in hot seat over human rights allegation

Tim Hortons Coffee ShopFood-service franchisor Tim Hortons is fighting a claim it is subject to a human rights complaint made toward one of its franchises in British Columbia.

According to Jeremy Hann, an associate lawyer with Baker & McKenzie LLP, a group of past and present employees of the franchise in Dawson Creek, B.C., named both the franchisee and franchisor as respondents for alleged human rights violations. Tim Hortons felt this was unjustified because it was not the employer, so it launched a preliminary application to dismiss the claim.

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, however, did not agree Tim Hortons was not responsible. It found Tim Hortons’ rigorous compliance program, the presence of an internal grievance process linking individual employees to the company’s headquarters and a history of franchisor-led employment-related investigations targeting this particular franchise were all indicative of control over its franchisees.

Hann explains the franchisor remains a respondent for now and will participate in the proceedings. What exactly comprises ‘sufficient’ influence and control over franchisee’s treatment of local workers is yet to be defined, but the results of this case will help clarify the matter.

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