As McDonald’s prepares to reopen some dining rooms across the country, workers at two Los Angeles eateries Tuesday filed notices of intent to sue the company due to its handling of COVID-19 issues that allegedly put staff in “imminent danger.”
The notices, filed with the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency and Cal/OSHA, give the company 33 days to address alleged violations or workers can sue for civil penalties.
McDonald’s said in a statement that allegations contained in a Service Employees International Union press release were inaccurate and that safety, including wellness checks and personal protective gear, is of paramount importance.
“Crew and managers are the heart and soul of the restaurants in which they work, and their safety and well-being is a top priority that guides our decision making,” according to the company. “Since February, McDonald’s USA has updated nearly 50 processes to keep restaurant employees and customers safe and has issued a 59-page guide outlining national standards restaurants must implement. These include wellness checks, protective barriers, adhering to social distancing guidelines for customers and crew, using gloves and masks, increasing the frequency of handwashing and moving to contactless operations.”
In addition, personal protective equipment “is in ample supply for all restaurants; masks, gloves and protective barriers are required at all restaurants; (and) tobdate, more than 100 million masks have been distributed to crew,” according to the company’s statement.
Bartolome Perez, a Los Angeles McDonald’s worker who filed one of the actions, alleged that since the beginning of the pandemic, “McDonald’s has prioritized profits over our safety.”
“When one of my co-workers tested positive, McDonald’s put selling Big Macs ahead of our lives, failing to inform other workers they may have been exposed,” he said. “We had to go on strike just to get the store to close for a deep cleaning.”
In the Los Angeles franchise store where Perez works, several employees became infected with the COVID-19 virus in March and April, and others possibly later, according to the filing, which alleges the company pressured all employees to continue working by failing to provide sick pay and other benefits required by law.
In another Los Angeles store, an employee was allowed to work even while exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, coming into direct contact with other workers, several of whom subsequently developed symptoms, a second notice alleges. The worker later tested positive, but the restaurant did not make any effort to close the eatery, isolate employees or provide them paid leave, according to the document.
“Frontline McDonald’s workers are scared and angry,” alleged Lauren Teukolsky, an attorney for the workers. “McDonald’s is still not protecting them and Cal/OSHA is missing in action, even though these workers filed formal Cal/OSHA complaints more than a month ago.
“If the need to protect workers and customers from the scourge of COVID-19 isn’t motivation enough for McDonald’s, maybe the threat of massive civil penalties through legal action will be,” she said. “McDonald’s workers should not have to choose between their lives and a paycheck.”
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