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Privacy violation at a large franchise?

By M.W.H. ·
I own a franchise in a large chain. About a year ago, our Head Office set up a "Franchisee Chat Line" which was to be used exclusively by the Franchisees to discuss ideas. The privacy statement assured us that no H.O. staff or any Executives would have access to this forum.

I contributed my fair share of business ideas as well as belly-ached about stuff along with about 20 or 30 other active participants. This sort of mixed content should be expected with this type of open forum. Our V.P. of H.R. was monitoring the forum for abuses such as racism, porn etc. but did not take part in the discussion.

My Landlord is also the V.P. of Franchising as well as one of the Owners of the Franchise. For some years now, we have had a rather strained landlord/tenant relationship because of his reluctance to fulfill his obligations as a Landlord. After sending a strongly worded letter to him regarding our mall's condition, I got a phone call from a H.O. lawyer indicating that H.O. wanted me to sell my franchise because I was clearly 'unhappy'. I told him I am not unhappy with my franchise, just with my landlord!

Over the past 15 years, with over 50,000 customer contacts per year, H.O. has not received a single customer complaint from my store and they have never indicated that I was doing anything wrong in any aspect of our franchise system.

With some digging, I found out that my V.P./Landlord had pressed the V.P. of H.R. to turn over my contributions on the 'Franchisee Chat Line'. When she refused, citing the privacy policy, he insisted that he had a right to this material in his role as an 'Owner'. The privacy policy never mentioned 'Owner' so she turned over my Chat Line contributions to him and now he is using some of my negative comments as proof that I am unfit to own a franchise. Needless to say, I have retained a very good lawyer but I would like to know what this community thinks of my situation and in particular, the actions of both V.P.'s

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Murky Issue

by TheChas In reply to Privacy violation at a la ...

While it may violate the specifics of the privacy agreement, the owner may be within his rights to access the chat records.

It is NEVER a good idea to post negative comments about your company on ANY company owned forum.
Even if the current privacy policy restricts access, there is no reason to believe that the policy will stay that way, or that your older comments will be purged if the policy changes.

Now, you are in a no win situation.
Even if you win the current battle, you have lost the war unless you can outlast the owner.

Based on what you have posted, if you win this round, the owner WILL find legal ways to make your work-life difficult.
If he is vindictive enough, he may even close your location as a way to get rid of you.

Your only hope, is to show a business case for the repairs or updates you have requested for your location. If you cannot show that the condition of the location is causing lost sales or extra costs, it may be time to move on.

Chas

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