BENTON — Sandwich shop franchise chain Jimmy John’s is once again the target of a labor class action lawsuit. 

This time, an Illinois resident filed a complaint in a federal district court alleging the company’s franchise agreement is non-competitive and violates federal antitrust law. 

Jonathan Crotty
Jonathan Crotty | Parker Poe

Sylas Butler, the primary plaintiff, filed suit alleging Jimmy John’s Franchise LLC et al. has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, as amended, according to the Madison County Record.

Jimmy John's has come under a number of lawsuits in recent years from current and former employees. But those prior claims "involved agreements between Jimmy John’s and its employees," Jonathan M. Crotty, an attorney at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, told the Cook County Record

"The new suit is based on agreements between the company and its franchisees," he said. "The employees are not parties to the agreements, but the plaintiffs allege that employees are negatively affected as a result.”

Butler, serving as the named plaintiff in the mass action, started his employment with Jimmy John’s franchisee Kidds Restaurant Inc. in August 2015. By January 2017, the plaintiff was given only given four hours of work a week after expressing interest in working more hours. The plaintiff alleges that this was a gradual process over his tenure at Jimmy John’s. However, he was unable to transfer to another Jimmy John's location because of the franchise agreements, and alleges he was forced to quit to seek other employment.

According to the plaintiff, such a franchise agreement "reflects a naked restraint of competition and a per se violation of antitrust laws,” according to the Madison County Record

“If deemed to be an antitrust or anti-competitive violations, this could cause franchisors to drop these restrictions from their franchise agreements,” Crotty said. “This would, in turn, allow franchisees of the same company to recruit each other’s managers and other employees.”

Current agreements, plaintiffs argure, depress wages and employee opportunities.

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