Seventeen Employees File a Lawsuit Against McDonald’s Over Workplace Violence

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Seventeen Employees File a Lawsuit Against McDonald’s Over Workplace Violence

A group of 17, Chicago-area McDonald’s workers is accusing the chain of not addressing worker safety on the job through training and other forms of trauma-related help. The lawsuit is backed by the labor group Fight for $15.

According to the press release on the lawsuit, there is a “citywide and nationwide pattern” of violence in McDonald’s stores, and recent decisions by McDonald’s have undermined employee safety in more ways than one.

The lawsuit focuses on 13 McDonald’s restaurants in the Chicago area, both corporate- and franchise-owned. The allegations address the concern that the company has been made aware of the numerous threats to employee safety but have neglected to address them in recent months and years.

And the cases of violence are not few and far between. Nearly 20 calls to 911 were made from Chicago McDonald’s restaurants a day, the suit claims. A May 2019 report from the National Employment Law Project—cited in the suit—counts over 700 violent incidents reported in the news at McDonald’s restaurants over three years.

Incidents range from customer threats with weapons, disruptive customers, and unfortunately, even deaths. One case even mentions how a customer reportedly urinated on a worker.

“Police found a dead body in my store’s bathroom—there was blood everywhere,” Sonia Acuña, a McDonald’s worker and plaintiff in the suit, said in a press release about the lawsuit. “McDonald’s never provided any safety training or offered any support for trauma I’ve suffered. We shouldn’t have to put ourselves in harm’s way just to support our families. That’s why we’re suing McDonald’s today—because it’s life or death for us.”

This frustrated sentiment is shared by workers and case attorneys alike. Danny Rosenthal, the lead attorney on the case, expressed the same:

“McDonald’s has failed, at a systematic level, to protect its workers from violence in the workplace. Throughout the country, McDonald’s workers are regularly threatened, assaulted, and injured by customers. You only need to do a Google news search for McDonald’s and crime to find hundreds of examples. The Chicago area is a prototypical case.”

In addition to an alleged lack of appropriate training programs, workers also say store layout designs and the company’s long hours contribute to the high rate of violence. McDonald’s stores’ split counter format dubbed “Experience of the Future” allows customers to easily access the kitchen and work area at many locations. Plus, staying open late at night and early into the morning “put(s) thousands of workers at risk due to the high levels of violence associated with late-night retail.”

McDonald’s does reportedly have an employee training program in place that includes guidance on how to mitigate workplace violence. The company said the following in a statement:

“McDonald's takes seriously its responsibility to provide and foster a safe working environment for our employees, and along with our franchisees, continue to make investments in training programs that uphold safe environments for customers and crew members. In addition to training, McDonald's maintains stringent policies against violence in our restaurants.” 

Still, this is not the first time the McDonald’s name has taken the heat in recent months. The chain has been the focus of a recent wave of sexual harassment lawsuits. On November 12, a worker filed a $5 million lawsuit against the company for failing to address a “systematic problem” of harassment. Additionally, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired over his relationship with an employee.

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