Patterson v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, 2014 WL 4236175 (Cal. S. Ct. 2014)

Taylor Patterson was hired by Sui Juris (a franchisee of Domino’s Pizza) to serve customers at its store.  Patterson alleged that she was sexually harassed by Renee Miranda, an adult male who held the title of assistant manager of the Sui Juris store.  In her complaint, Patterson alleged that she and Miranda were employed by Domino’s (the franchisor).  Domino’s filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the franchise contract stated there was no “principal and agent” relationship between it and the franchisee and Domino’s disclaimed “any relationship with Sui Juris’s employees” and assumed “no rights, duties, or responsibilities” as to their employment.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Domino’s, but the court of appeal reversed.  In this (4-to-3) opinion, the California Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and reinstated summary judgment in favor of Domino’s on the ground that “the imposition and enforcement of a uniform marketing and operational plan cannot automatically saddle the franchisor with responsibility for employees of the franchisee who injure each other on the job.”  See also Carlton v. Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., 2014 WL 3955885 (Cal. Ct. App. 2014) (breach of contract action filed against employer by male employee who was terminated after showing sexually explicit photo to a female employee was properly dismissed).