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McDonald's Hit with Class Actions Claiming Theft of Store Workers Pay

McDonald's in New York

LOS ANGELES – Fast food employees in three states have filed class action lawsuits against McDonald’s, claiming the company is systematically stealing employees' wages and refusing to pay them business expenses they are due.

The lawsuits were filed against McDonald’s and various company entities in federal and state courts in Michigan, New York and California.

The second amendment complaint filed today in California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, Maria Sanchez v. McDonald’s Corporation, states that the workers are employed as crew members of the hamburger giant. They are bringing their wage and hour action against McDonald’s on behalf of themselves and other current and former employees, for violations of their rights under federal and state wage and hour laws.

“We work hard, and our wages are already at rock bottom,” Sharmell Granberry, a McDonald’s worker in Detroit, stated in one news report. She earns about $250 a week. “It is time for McDonald’s to stop skirting the law to pad profits. We need to get paid for the hours we work.”

Attorney Joseph M. Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington D.C., a national rights specialist gave his take on the class action suits. “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 uniforms McDonald’s requires them to wear.” He said the franchisor’s practices cause a substantial financial burden for workers at its restaurants. 

The California lawsuit asserts that McDonald’s is a multi-billion dollar business with annual profits of nearly %5.6 billion, operating some 35,000 units globally, of which 1,300 are in California. Despite its tremendous revenue and profits, McDonald’s continues to pay workers slightly above minimum wage and refuses to pay expenses for maintenance of uniforms. As a result, the franchise company allegedly is paying wages that have been reduced below the federal and state minimum wage, a clear violation of law.

The workers are seeking redress for “McDonald’s wrongful schemes to hide and to cover up the extent of its wrongdoing by improperly altering records of hours worked and compensation owed,” the lawsuit claims. They also assert McDonald’s is concealing, denying, and/or misrepresenting to the workers the amount of their earnings. And they claim the company is denying them legally mandated meal periods. They are refusing to pay workers “statutorily-required pay for all missed, late, and shortened meal periods and rest breaks.” 

The named franchise workers in the lawsuit assert that serving customers, filling orders, preparing and cooking food under stressful conditions are worsened by McDonald’s insistence that each customer transaction must be completed within an unreasonably brief period of time. And the company’s requirement that “at none of its restaurants may the ratio of labor costs to gross sales exceed a predetermined fixed percentage at any time.”

The workers are seeking declaratory injunctive, compensatory and other statutorily available relief for themselves and other class members. The lawsuit alleges that all McDonald’s entities—defendants— “were the joint employers” of the workers and class members, and were “alter egos”. . . of each other. They further state that McDonald’s acted through their policies and practices, when not paying workers all wages earned and due, through methods and schemes which include altering time sheets, resulting in less pay for workers.

McDonald’s response

McDonald’s Vice President of Global External Communications Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem sent NBC News a statement today in an email:

“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."

NBC reported today that in early December, workers staged mass protests throughout the U.S. to demand the federal minimum hourly wage be raised to $15 from the current level of $7.25.

In response to these protests, McDonald's has stressed the opportunities its jobs gives workers.

Lisa McComb, a McDonald's spokesperson, told Nation's Restaurant News, "We offer employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits. And we invest in training and professional development that helps them learn practical and transferable business skills.

Workers’ Claims

 The California second complaint lists 12 allegations, including wage theft, failure to pay overtime wages and minimum wages, failure to pay wages to discharged and quitting employees, failure to maintain required records, civil penalties, and unfair and unlawful business practices. 

They are seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be ascertained at trial, as well as restitution of all monies due, as well as disgorged profits from unfair and unlawful business practices by McDonald’s. Other damages include liquidated damages, and waiting time penalties pursuant to California law.

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Sanchez v McDonald's - Second Amended Complaint.pdf428.23 KB
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About Janet Sparks

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Janet Sparks is the former publisher of the Continental Franchise Review, an industry newsletter that covered the franchise community for over 30 years. She has also been a columnist for a leading franchise magazine for the past 13 years. Today she is an independent journalist who engages in investigative reporting, tackling complex issues that impact the franchise industry.

Janet can be reached at or at 303-799-7398.