McDonald’s faces COVID-19 litigation for alleged unsafe workplace conditions.
Five of McDonald’s Chicago-based employees filed a class action lawsuit against the company this month alleging it failed to adopt government safety guidance on COVID-19, consequently putting in danger its employees and their families. The filing contends, “McDonald’s failed to provide adequate hand sanitizer, gloves and masks and has not notified its staff when an employee has become infected with the new coronavirus.” The workers requested the Illinois state court issue an injunction to stop certain violations (such as reusing masks) and to require face coverings for customers as well a way to inform employees if a coworker becomes infected.
“The damage done by McDonald’s decisions is not confined to the walls of its restaurants, but instead has broader public health consequences for the Chicago community, the State of Illinois, and the entire country,” the lawsuit said.
McDonald’s responded in a statement that the allegations “were inaccurate and that safety, including wellness checks and protective gear, is a top priority.”
Workers at three California locations also filed administrative actions over allegedly safety violations with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health this month. The company has 33 days to address violations stemming from the pandemic, or the workers can take McDonald’s to court.
“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,” the chain said in a statement.
James Hodge, law professor at Arizona State University, explained, “Lawsuits are unlikely to be successful unless they are challenging a truly egregious practice. The idea that you’re going to walk into court and object vehemently and successfully against known, proven public health social distancing measures that are being employed currently is not a winner.”
However, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was recently established to expand paid sick leave and family medical leave in the workplace to help vulnerable employees deal with schools and childcare centers being closed amid the pandemic. Under the act, workers at businesses employing fewer than 500 employees are eligible for up to twelve weeks of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds of their regular pay through the end of 2020.
Of course, there are many workers who have been deemed essential and must continue to report to work. Thus, is it important for their employers to ensure they are taking proper safety precautions to limit the spread of the virus. Many employees in fields deemed essential who have witnessed less than desirable conditions and violations have chosen to protest the mandate to continue reporting to work by walking off the job or simply not showing up.
“I’m one of these that believe that when the courts open back up, there’s going to be an explosion of coronavirus-related litigation, and this is just one piece of it,” said Cynthia Blevins Doll, an attorney with the firm Fisher Phillips.