McDonald’s workers in California, Michigan, and New York filed lawsuits this week against the company and several franchise owners, claiming that they illegally underpaid employees by erasing hours from their time cards, not paying overtime, and ordering them to work off the clock.
The lawsuits were announced Thursday by the employees’ lawyers and organizers of the union-backed movement that is pressing the nation’s fast-food restaurants to increase wages to at least $15 an hour.
In two lawsuits filed in Michigan against McDonald’s and two Detroit-area franchise owners, workers claimed that their restaurants told them to show up to work, but then ordered them to wait an hour or two without pay until enough customers arrived.
Those lawsuits also argued that the requirement by McDonald’s that employees pay for their uniforms resulted in expenses that often illegally reduced their pay below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“Our wages are already at rock bottom,” Sharnell Grandberry, a McDonald’s worker in Detroit, said in a news release announcing the 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.”
A McDonald’s spokeswoman released this statement: “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.”
In three lawsuits brought in California, the workers claim the McDonald’s restaurants employing them did not pay them for all hours worked, cheated them out of overtime, shaved hours from pay records, and denied them legally required meal periods and rest breaks.
The lawyers are contending that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer and share liability with its franchisees, although the company, like many other fast-food chains with franchises, has argued in the past that it is not a joint employer and should not be liable for its franchisees’ misdeeds on the ground that the franchised restaurants are independently run businesses.