McDonald's and some of its franchisees have been hit with multiple class-action suits, with workers contending that the company is stealing wages by forcing them to work off the clock and even pay for the cleaning of uniforms.
The suits were filed Wednesday and Thursday in New York, Michigan, and California, and demand that McDonald's pay back the allegedly stolen wages and end the practices the suit says lead to reduced income.
"We work hard, and our wages are already at rock bottom," said McDonald's worker Sharnell Grandberry, a plaintiff in the Michigan suit. "It is time for McDonald's to stop skirting the law to pad profits. We need to get paid for the hours we work."
The Michigan suit asserts that McDonald's regularly forces employees to wait without pay until enough customers show up, with managers telling workers to clock in or out based on information provided by software monitoring the ratio of labor costs to revenues. This practice, the suit claims, continues until a target ratio is achieved.
It also alleges that the company routinely violates minimum wage laws. According to the suit, workers are forced to purchase and clean uniforms at their own expense, driving their wages below the legal minimum.
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"With $28 billion in revenue in 2013 alone, McDonald's can certainly afford to provide its minimum-wage workers with this money to clean their uniforms, as required by law, instead of making them pay for the privilege of wearing McDonald's advertising," said Jim Reif, an attorney who filed the New York suit.
Labor law violations in the fast food industry have been a hot topic recently, with workers rallying for the minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour and protesting mass firings. And it's not the first time McDonald's has aroused ire lately; one worker was fired for allegedly giving a homeless man a hamburger.
But this month's lawsuits coincide with a larger movement regarding the minimum wage, with President Barack Obama and many Democrats in Congress advocating the federal minimum wage be raised to $10.10, even as a recent Congressional Budget Office report estimated that such an increase could result in about 500,000 jobs being lost by late 2016.
McDonald's said in a statement that it is currently investigating the allegations. "McDonald's and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald's restaurants," the company said.
Nevertheless, the workers involved in the suits hope that the attention on McDonalds' payment practices will have a ripple effect on the broader industry. "The company continues to take advantage of me and my co-workers," said McDonald's worker and plaintiff Guadalupe Salazar. "We can't allow them to play by a different set of rules just because they're big. They need to respect us, and this suit will help them do that."
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