Uh oh, McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) is going to need a Happy Meal after this one. The New York Times reported Thursday that the world’s largest fast food chain has been slapped with multiple class-action lawsuits filed by workers in California, Michigan, and New York. The employees who filed the suits charge the company and several franchise owners with illegally underpaying employees by erasing hours from their timecards, not paying overtime, and forcing them to work off the clock. The lawsuits were made public during a telephone conference that occurred at noon Thursday, and the employees’ lawyers and organizers of the union-backed movement campaigning for fast food restaurants’ increased wages were the ones responsible for the announcement of the suits.
According to the Times, in the lawsuits filed in Michigan against McDonald’s and two franchise owners, workers allege that they were instructed to come into work, but wait an hour or two without pay until a sufficient number of customers required service. They also make the argument that because McDonald’s requires employees to pay for their uniforms, their expenses result in a pay below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Over on the West Coast, the Times says that workers are suing McDonald’s and franchise owners for not paying them for all hours they worked, purposefully cheating them out of overtime, erasing hours from pay records, and refusing them legally required rest breaks and meal periods. McDonald’s put out a statement on Thursday in regards to the new claims, highlighted by the Times, “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. We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald’s and our independent franchisees are committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations.”
Those in support of the movement to raise the wages for fast food employees campaign that workers, such as those as McDonald’s, should earn at least $15 an hour. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company is well aware of these requests, as it has already suffered a one-day strike earlier in December that took place in more than 70 cities, and before that, in 2012, several one-day strikes that took place in New York. However, it still hasn’t budged. This new blow from the new lawsuits, calling McDonald’s employment practices into question, could further devastate McDonald’s PR, but it is still unclear what measures the chain will take.
Those employees who filed the lawsuits made public Thursday their claim that they have no other option but to bring McDonald’s to court, because their wages are so low that their pay really can’t take any more blows. The Times highlights the case of Sharnell Grandberry, a McDonald’s worker in Detroit and a plaintiff in the Michigan lawsuit, who explained in a news release, “Our wages are already at rock bottom. 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 group that supports these plaintiffs is the Service Employees International Union, an agency that has largely financed strategists’ efforts to push the $15 wage at McDonald’s and other fast food chains. Those involved with the agency believe that restaurants should not only increase wages, but also stop opposing union organizing efforts, but so far, their appeals have largely gone unrecognized. So now, they hope that the lawsuits will force places like McDonald’s to acknowledge their pleas and recognize how some workers are being treated at different franchises. Now that workers in three U.S. states are bringing potentially damaging claims to court, it is possible that McDonald’s will work to silence the critics by raising its own wages, but if the past is any indication of how the future will go, workers probably shouldn’t hold their breath.