Congressional Democrats are challenging the qualifications of nominee Andrew Puzder to serve as secretary of labor based on his record as CEO at CKE Restaurants, the parent company of the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. burger chains, which has faced a number of class-action labor lawsuits. But some industry experts say CKE's violations under his leadership have been minimal compared to those of the company's competitors.

Industry analysts said franchisors like CKE typically refrain from getting too involved in the business of their franchisees for fear of being held liable for their franchisee's labor violations.

"As a practical matter, many franchisees are small, unsophisticated businesspeople," said Steven Suflas, an attorney with Ballard Spahr in Denver. "It is typical for franchisors to provide suggestions for employment policies and practices in order to assist them in setting up their businesses. Also, the franchisor has an interest in protecting the brand from both public and governmental criticism. The press seldom identifies a franchisee with wage and hour law violations; instead, it is the franchisor's name that is held up for public scrutiny."

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