The National Labor Relations Board issued complaints Friday against McDonald's Corp. and its franchisees over worker rights.
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The board's chief counsel charged that the company violates the rights of employees working at its restaurants around the country to seek better pay and working conditions. Hearings are set for March on whether to pursue disciplinary steps.
In a statement, McDonald's called the move an "overreach" and vowed to contest it. The company said it has been the target of a union-financed campaign and is only defending itself against an attack on its business.
The NLRB said it has found 86 cases in which the company's unlawful conduct included sanctions against workers who had sought job improvements, including by participating in nationwide fast food worker protests.
Violations included firings, reduced hours, threats, surveillance and discriminatory discipline against workers who engaged in union or other legally protected activity, the board said.
The NLRB is a federal agency that resolves employee-management disputes in the private sector. It disclosed in July it had received 181 complaints against McDonald's and its franchisees since November 2012.
The agency contends the company and its franchisees are joint employers of the fast-food workers. McDonald's denies that claim.