Fast food workers have been among those on the front lines as the debate over raising minimum wages rages throughout the states and at the federal level. Now McDonald's employees in Michigan, as well as California and New York, have filed wage suits against the burger giant as well as some of its franchise owners.
The suits allege that employers took actions that prevented employees from receiving wages they had earned. These actions include failing to pay overtime, doctoring time cards, charging for uniforms and telling employees to work without clocking in. These actions, the suits contend, effectively put McDonald's workers below the $7.25 per hour minimum wage mandated by the federal government.
McDonald's and its franchisees are facing seven lawsuits in all, including one in California that attorneys are working to get classified as a class action suit. Two of the lawsuits were filed here in Michigan against McDonalds, as well as two of its franchisees in the Detroit area. One of the allegations in the Michigan suits was also made in others.
Reportedly, McDonald's tells its franchisees to reduce staff during periods of decreased sales levels. Its software allows both of those to be tracked on an hourly basis. According to employees, supervisors have instructed them not to sign in until the restaurant gets busier - - meaning they work sometimes more than an hour without being paid. The Michigan lawsuits also contend that after the amount of their uniforms is deducted from their pay, employees earn less than minimum wage.
McDonald's and other fast food purveyors have contended in other cases that they should not be responsible for the wrongful actions of their franchisees. They argue that their franchisees run their restaurants independently.
No doubt, McDonald's has a strong legal team reviewing the suits and determining how best to respond. All businesses, no matter how large or small, would benefit by working to ensure that all managers and supervisors are abiding by all employment laws, including wage and hour laws. Failure by even one person to do so can cost a business dearly.
Obviously the financial cost of employment litigation can be great. In addition, whether allegations are true or not, consumers may think twice about whether they want to spend their money at a business they believe does not treat its employees fairly.
Source: The New York Times, "McDonald’s Workers File Wage Suits in 3 States" Steven Greenhouse, Mar. 13, 2014