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By Daniel Ulloa
March 21, 2014
Credit : AP/Jae C. Hong.


McDonald’s workers in New York, California, and Michigan are suing their employer alleging that their wages were illegally stolen.

Workers in Michigan are claiming that two metropolitan Detroit franchise owners demanded that employees delayed clocking in after they had arrived for the beginning of their shifts in order to decrease their pay.

Californian employees of McDonald’s say that were not allowed to take lunch hours or breaks during their shifts at the same time that hours were taken off their time sheets

Workers in New York were not given reimbursements previously agreed on for the cost of cleaning their uniforms.

The franchise owner’s actions forced their worker’s wages below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which along with other labor protections is guaranteed by the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

While the lawsuits have been launched, McDonald’s employees and their allies protested in New York and 29 other cities regarding their lack of overtime pay.

“Every nickel, every dime,” shouted a crowd of fast food workers. “We deserve our overtime!”

While protests were taking place, New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had already taken action and announced that McDonald’s franchise owner Richard Cisneros settled for $500,000 after denying employees uniform cleaning expenses.

“Our lowest wage workers deserve the same protections of the law as everyone else. It’s critical, for them and for their families as well as for our economy, that we remain vigilant so that no New Yorkers are cheated out of their hard won earnings,” Schneiderman said.

McDonald’s workers have been protesting for an increase in their wages and the right to form a union since 2012.

In recent months, the New York Attorney General’s office has been investigating many wage-related abuses. They recently reached a $3.9 million settlement over wage theft and other labor violations by car wash chains.

According to a survey published last year, 84 percent of fast-food workers reported having wages stolen from them by their employers.

Preventing wage theft is often difficult due to the amount of corporations and workplaces that need to be investigated. Though if the lawsuits are decided in favor of the workers, they have the potential to receive not only back pay but liquidated damages, which is often twice the back pay.

“McDonald’s cannot hide from its responsibility for these unlawful practices,” Jonathan Westin, a leader with the activist group Fast Food Forward stated.

According to the Department of Labor, wage theft is a widespread practice. McDonald’s and along with its franchise owners have been found in violation of FLSA regulations more than 300 times since 1985.

The average salary for someone in the fast food industry is $9 an hour which at $18,500 is $4,500 below the poverty threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.

“We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators are each committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations,” Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem said, a spokeswoman for the company.

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