McDonald’s Workers Are Suing, and the Battle Is Going to Be Fascinating

Search form

McDonald’s Workers Are Suing, and the Battle Is Going to Be Fascinating

McDonald’s Workers Are Suing, and the Battle Is Going to Be Fascinating
Mon, 3/17/2014 - by Jordan Weissmann
This article originally appeared on Slate

McDonald’s workers in New York, California, and Michigan filed class action suits against the chain, as well as several franchises, for wage theft violations. The cases accuse the fast-food giant of “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,” according to a press release by the workers’ lawyers.

Sometimes, lawsuits are about winning money. Sometimes they’re about publicity. And sometimes they’re about fishing for information. These suits seem to be about all three.

First, the money. The workers are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which is one of the few major American law firms that specializes in representing plaintiffs in class actions. It tends not to bring suits without a somewhat reasonable case or the chance of a significant payday.

Second, publicity. The suit comes in the midst of a long public relations campaign by fast-food workers demanding higher wages. Employees at McDonald’s and other chains have been walking off the job in daylong strikes that, while mostly symbolic, have added fuel to the drive for a higher minimum wage.

And finally, information. Lawsuits can reveal an enormous amount about the workings of a company that management wouldn’t ordinarily have to disclose publicly. The only reason we have a somewhat detailed sense of how Walmart pays its workers, for instance, is that the company was forced to hand over internal data as part of a gender discrimination case. Salon’s Josh Eidelson hits on a key point about the new class actions: They could give the workers’ attorneys the chance to dig through corporate records and find out more about the exact relationship between McDonald’s and the independent franchises that employ most of the chain's workers. Per Eidelson:

“In the past, McDonald’s has tried to shield itself from liability,” said Joseph Sellers, one of the attorneys bringing suit. But “we found evidence that McDonald’s has indeed exerted control over the daily operations” of the franchised stores that “makes it legally jointly responsible” for the alleged crimes.

If true, that could also mean McDonald’s corporate offices have a little more responsibility for what its franchises pay than they’ve previously let on. It’s obviously too early to draw any conclusions, but if these suits survive in the courts, it might dig some fascinating dirt out from under those golden arches.

Article Tabs

tar sands, tar sands bikeride, carbon emissions, bitumen, The Road to Athabasca, Trans Mountain Pipeline

Through discovery of place, through story, and through personal connection with people along the way, we are journeying 1,100 miles to the tar sands of Alberta – and are asking for your support in our venture.

non-violent drug offenses, Million Dollar Blocks

"I tell you what, I wish instead of spending so much money on [incarcerating people], they'd come fill some of these crater holes behind my house."

kayaktivists, Shell protests, Fennica, Arctic oil drilling

Dozens of kayaktivists took to the water to block Shell's Fennica ice breaker from leaving port, while a group of 13 climbers rappelled off a bridge in Portland, Oregon, with enough supplies to last days if needed.

Samuel DuBose, Ray Tensing, police killings, police brutality, police violence, indicted officers

Prosecutors said officer Ray Tensing “purposely killed” 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was pulled over for a missing front license plate.

Frackanpada, anti-fracking movement, fracking bans, anti-fracking camp, fracking resistance, Fracking Ez, Basque anti-fracking movement

“This is the first time fracking activists have got together on this scale internationally – from Kurdistan to Brazil, from Ukraine to Portugal and Algeria," says Catriona of Ireland, who attended the recent Frackanpada.

bank bailouts, fraudulent bank practices, mortgage backed securities, illegal foreclosures, Lanny Breuer, Eric Holder, FDIC, securitized loans, due process, whistleblowers, robosigning, mortgage fraud, revolving door

"The system is largely gamed, broken and corrupted by money, influence peddling and a revolving door."

Posted 4 days 21 hours ago
Black Lives Matter, pepper spray cops, Cleveland police incidents, police brutality, police violence, Ferguson protests, Baltimore protests

The incident occurred Sunday during protests against the arrest of a 14-year-old.

Posted 3 days 21 hours ago
Black Lives Matter, racial injustice, economic injustice, Tia Oso, Patrisse Cullors, white supremacy, Ku Klux Klan, #BernieSoBlack

The recent Black Lives Matter protest at the Netroots Nation conference was a teachable moment for everyone – forcing progressives to pick a side as they shape next year's electoral agenda.

Posted 4 days 21 hours ago

Being sick and having nowhere to turn is terrorizing far too many Americans – as medical fraud, huge price markups and pharmaceutical copyright laws are contributing to growing illnesses and early death.

Posted 2 days 21 hours ago
Endangered Species Act, animal protections, Federal Land Freedom Act, Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, National Defense Authorization Act, Common Sense in Species Protection Act, Clean Energy Act

A spate of bills attached with riders are moving through Congress that would dismantle the historic law by transferring authority from the federal level to the states – inaugurating an era of unrestrained development.

Posted 3 days 21 hours ago

This week, Aaron Draper invites you to see the humanity in the homeless via external flashes and light boxes. Next, Congress is peddling poison and wants to keep you in the DARK.

Samuel DuBose, Ray Tensing, police killings, police brutality, police violence, indicted officers

Prosecutors said officer Ray Tensing “purposely killed” 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who was pulled over for a missing front license plate.

Endangered Species Act, animal protections, Federal Land Freedom Act, Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, National Defense Authorization Act, Common Sense in Species Protection Act, Clean Energy Act

A spate of bills attached with riders are moving through Congress that would dismantle the historic law by transferring authority from the federal level to the states – inaugurating an era of unrestrained development.

Greek debt crisis, Troika, Greek anti-austerity movement, IMF, austerity policies

Having spent the last week in Athens talking to ordinary citizens, young and old, as well as current and past officials, I’ve come to the view that this is about far more than just Greece and the euro.

Frackanpada, anti-fracking movement, fracking bans, anti-fracking camp, fracking resistance, Fracking Ez, Basque anti-fracking movement

“This is the first time fracking activists have got together on this scale internationally – from Kurdistan to Brazil, from Ukraine to Portugal and Algeria," says Catriona of Ireland, who attended the recent Frackanpada.

Sign Up