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Food & Drink

McDonald's Workers Take Wage Theft Claims to Court

Workers from McDonald’s (MCD) chains in Michigan, New York, and California this week filed seven lawsuits against the fast food giant, alleging wage theft. The lawsuits were filed by lawyers representing 23 plaintiffs, but the cases are class actions on behalf of thousands of employees. McDonald’s, according to the plaintiffs’ claims, is systematically stealing wages by forcing staffers to work off-the-clock, shaving hours off time cards, and not paying them for overtime, among other practices.

The California lawsuit alleged that McDonald’s failed to pay employees for all time worked, altered pay records, and didn’t allow for legally mandated breaks. “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,” Michael Rubin, an attorney who filed the California suits, said in a statement.

The Michigan suits allege that the company and a local franchisee that is also named in the action forced workers to “spend idle time at the restaurants without pay as part of an effort to minimize labor costs,” Bloomberg reports.

The New York workers allege that by not paying them for all hours worked and not covering such business expenses as the cleaning of their uniforms, McDonald’s is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Laws.

Each of the lawsuits is asking that workers be awarded the claimed unpaid wages, plus compensatory damages and disgorged profits earned as a result of the allegedly unlawful business practices.

McDonald’s is reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits, according to Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, vice president of global external communications for the company. “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,” she said.

As we’ve reported previously, McDonald’s U.S. workers struggle at the bottom of the pay scale. They are estimated to have received the most public assistance of any workers in low-wage jobs—about $1.2 billion worth a year from 2007 to 2011.

Kessenides is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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