This post first appeared in ThinkProgress.
Seven McDonald’s franchises in New York owned by Richard Cisneros will pay nearly $500,000 to fast food workers who claimed they were victims of wage theft under a settlement reached by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, the Huffington Post reports.
More than 1,600 current and former employees will receive payment. The labor bureau “found that cashiers regularly performed off-the-clock work before and after their shifts,” Dave Jamieson writes, doing work without earning any extra income, and were also made to pay for cleaning their own uniforms and didn’t get an extra hour of pay after shifts where they worked 10 hours in a row. All of these practices violate New York State labor laws.
The state also recently won a $1.3 million settlement for workers at Domino’s in New York City who claimed they experienced similar wage theft tactics.
Given how widespread wage theft is among New York City’s fast food businesses, on Tuesday Public Advocate Letitia James announced a proposal to tamp down on these practices, including an anonymous whistleblower hotline for workers, expanding the authority of city agencies to investigate, and urging McDonald’s to amend franchisee agreements so that it can hold them accountable when they violate labor laws.McDonald’s faces much larger charges of wage theft beyond New York, as workers have brought seven class action lawsuits against the corporate entity as well as some franchisees in three states. They allege they were underpaid when the company made them work off the clock, didn’t pay them overtime, made them pay for their uniforms out of their own pockets, erased hours from their timecards, and denied them breaks for meals and rest.
While many of the lawsuits over wage theft in the fast food industry, such as the one in New York, target franchisees, the class action suits argue that corporate shares liability. The company has defended itself by saying that franchisees operate independently, so it can’t be held accountable for their actions. But workers allege that McDonald’s corporate was directly involved in monitoring labor costs at the store level, leading to the illegal wage tactics.
Wage theft is rampant in the fast food industry, as 84 percent of workers in New York City say they have fallen victim. These complaints have increased 400 percent over the last decade. But the odds are stacked against workers who try to reclaim some of that pay. Even when they prove it, in California for example, 83 percent of workers who actually won a case never actually got their money.
These allegations of wage theft come as fast food workers have been organizing to demand better pay and working conditions. They have gone on a series of strikes across the country to ask for $15 an hour as well as the right to form a union.