Dunkin’ Donuts is suing several of its franchisees that hire undocumented employees.

The Canton-based coffee and donuts chain says some of its 9,500 franchisees are breaking federal employment law by failing to vet whether employees at the restaurants had legal statuses to work in the U.S., according to one lawsuit filed in June.

“Our franchise agreement requires franchisees to follow all laws, including those pertaining to the hiring of workers legally allowed to work in the United States,” Michelle King, a spokeswoman for Dunkin’, said in a statement to the Herald.

Dunkin’ has sued at least 30 franchisee locations since late 2018, according to a review of court documents. The company said it reviewed employment and tax records dating back several years.

In some cases, Dunkin’s review “demonstrated pervasive noncompliance” with federal employment law.

“There have been isolated instances of non-compliance which have resulted in two cases being recently filed as well as the case that was filed over nine months ago,” said King.

Dunkin’ said its franchisees are required to use the federal “E-Verify,” an online system that allows businesses to verify whether a prospective employee has the legal status to work in the U.S.

In a September 2018 suit, the company said, “After receiving a customer complaint, Dunkin’ Franchising investigated and determined that Defendants were committing pervasive violations of federal law.”

Franchisee owners in that September case filed a counterclaim against Dunkin’, saying, “This action revolves around Dunkin’ Donuts’ bad faith and unjust attempt to terminate Counter-Plaintiffs’ franchised stores, without compensation, and without affording any opportunity” to rectify the violations.

In an April 2019 lawsuit, Dunkin’ said several other franchisees had “severe deficiencies” in employment documentation, including the I-9 forms. “For the employees for whom documentation was provided, the majority of the documentation was incomplete and non-compliant,” one suit states.

Dunkin’ said it terminated franchisee agreements as a result of its investigation, but franchisees continue to operate their restaurants, hence the lawsuits.


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