McDonald’s Workers File Multiple Class-Action Lawsuits Alleging Widespread
NEW YORK -- March 13, 2014
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 practices.
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
The suits contend that, using McDonald’s franchisor standards and
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
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 attorneywho 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
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
“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 McDonald’s advertising.”
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
"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. McDonald’s Corporation.
For more information about the cases, visit
Editor’s Note: Copy of Complaints Available
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
Pamela Avery, 402-305-0799
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