Attorneys representing McDonald's workers in California, Michigan and
New York this week filed class action lawsuits in federal and state
courts claiming the fast food giant is systematically stealing
employees' wages by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours
off their time cards, and not paying them overtime, among other
The suits, which were filed Wednesday and today, demand McDonald's pay
back these wages and stop its illegal theft of workers' pay.
"We work hard, and our wages are already at rock bottom," said Sharnell
Grandberry, a McDonald's worker in Detroit who earns about $250 each
week and is a plaintiff in one of the Michigan suits. "It is time for
McDonalds to stop skirting the law to pad profits. We need to get paid
for the hours we work."
According to national employment rights specialist Joseph M. Sellers, of
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC: "Despite reaping tremendous revenues
and profits thanks to the labors of crew members who earn at or just
above minimum wage, McDonald's is unlawfully failing to pay its workers
for all the hours they work and for necessary expenses they incur
relating to the uniform McDonald's requires them to wear. Not only do
its practices cause a substantial financial burden for McDonald's
workers, they violate state and federal minimum wage laws as well as
other state labor laws." Sellers and his firm are co-counsel in the
lawsuits filed in California and New York.
In three California suits, workers claim that McDonald's and its
franchise owners failed to pay them for all time worked, failed to pay
proper overtime, altered pay records and deprived them of timely meal
periods and rest breaks. A fourth case makes similar claims on behalf of
a statewide class of workers in McDonald's corporate-owned restaurants,
who are adding their claims to a lawsuit for unpaid wages, penalties,
and other relief that is already pending against McDonald's in Los
Angeles Superior Court.
"We've uncovered several unlawful schemes, but they all share a common
purpose - to drive labor costs down by stealing wages from McDonald's
workers," said Michael Rubin of Altshuler Berzon LLP, an attorney who
filed the lawsuits in California Superior Court in Los Angeles and in
Alameda counties. "These McDonald's workers have courageously stepped
forward to shine a light on these illegal practices, and already we've
begun to hear from several co-workers with similar wage theft claims."
In addition to Altshuler Berzon LLP, California McDonald's workers are
represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and Matern Law Group.
In two Michigan suits, filed against McDonald's Corp., its U.S.
subsidiary and two Detroit-area franchisees, workers assert McDonald's
regularly forces workers to show up for work at a scheduled time but
then has them wait without pay until the store gets busy enough, and
that it routinely violates minimum wage laws.
The suits contend that, using McDonald's franchisor standards an
corporation-provided software, McDonald's franchisees closely monitor
the ratio of labor costs to revenues. When it exceeds a corporate-set
target, managers tell workers arriving for their shifts to wait for up
to an hour to clock in, and sometimes direct workers who have already
clocked in for scheduled shifts to clock out for extended breaks until
the target ratio is again achieved. Workers are not paid for these wait
times, and McDonald's Corporation knowingly tolerates this practice, in
violation of federal labor law.
The suits also allege that McDonald's forces its low-paid workers to buy
their own uniforms. Because McDonald's restaurants pay at or near the
minimum wage, this drives some workers' real wages below the legal
minimum, in violation of federal labor law.
"The Detroit McDonald's workers are coming into federal court for
themselves and their co-workers because McDonald's schedules them for
work, but then makes them wait off the clock until enough customers
arrive," said David Dean of James & Hoffman, an attorney who filed the
suits in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
"Federal law demands they be paid for such waiting time, and McDonald's
Corporation needs to stop tolerating this illegal practice."
In addition to James & Hoffman, Michigan McDonald's workers are
represented by McKnight, McClow, Canzano, Smith & Radtke, P.C.
The case filed in New York federal court seeks to redress McDonald's
blatant failure to compensate and reimburse workers at its New York
stores for the time and cost of cleaning uniforms-which McDonald's
requires them to wear and to keep clean.
The plaintiffs contend that McDonald's failure to reimburse employees
for uniform cleaning violates the New York state requirement to pay
workers weekly for uniform maintenance and often also violates both
federal and state minimum wage laws.
"Because McDonald's restaurants pay so little, forcing workers to clean
their Golden Arches uniforms on their own dime drives many workers'
wages below the legal minimum," said James Rief of Gladstein, Reif and
Meginniss LLP, an attorney who filed the lawsuit in United States
District Court Eastern District of New York. "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
In addition to Gladstein, Reif and Meginniss LLP, New York McDonald's
workers are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
Taken together, these lawsuits in California, Michigan, and New York
contend that McDonald's, which raked in nearly $5.6 billion in profits
last year, regularly fails to pay workers for all the hours they work.
The allegations are not isolated ones. A survey conducted in New York
last year by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research showed that 84
percent of fast-food workers are victims of wage theft. In response
to the survey, New York Attorney General Eric
Schneiderman launched an investigation into pay practices in the
state's fast-food industry.
"Hidden from view among salaried workers, wage theft is a scourge that
eats away at the livelihoods of already-underpaid hourly workers," said
Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel at the National Employment Law
Project. "As these cases show, it's a persistent problem in too many
low-wage industries like fast food, which is why the US Department of
Labor has named restaurants and fast food as one of its priority
industries for strategic enforcement. McDonald's requires its workers to
work off-the-clock, show up for work without consistent shifts, and
deducts expenses from their already-meager pay, chiseling wages while
earning billions in profits. These violations can run into the millions
of dollars quite quickly, and as one of the largest low-wage employers
in the country, McDonalds should be setting standards, not undermining
"We are tired of McDonald's abusive behavior," said Guadalupe Salazar, a
McDonald's worker in California who earns about $480 for each 15-day pay
period and is one of the plaintiffs. "The company continues to take
advantage of me and my coworkers. 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."
The California cases are Sanchez v. McDonald's Restaurants of
California, Inc., Salazar v. McDonald's Corporation, Hughes v.
McDonald's Corporation, and Ochoa v. McDonald's Corporation.
The Michigan cases are Pullen v. McDonald's Corporation and Wilson
v. McDonald's Corporation. The New York case is Beard v.
For more information about the cases, visit http://www.cohenmilstein.com/cases/327/mcdonalds.
Editor's Note: Copy of Complaints Available
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