McDonald’s workers in LA, San Jose allege unsafe work conditions amid COVID-19 pandemic

McDonald’s workers at restaurants in Los Angeles, Monterey Park and San Jose filed complaints Tuesday, May 19, after CAL/OSHA allegedly failed to act on employee concerns that the company’s handling of COVID-19 issues in stores throughout California has put workers in “imminent danger.”

The actions, filed with the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency and CAL/OSHA and served on McDonald’s, give the company 33 days to correct the violations.

If the fast-food giant fails to comply, the state or workers could sue McDonald’s for each violation committed against each employee.

An alleged pattern of failure

The legal notices, filed under the state’s Private Attorneys General Act, detail an alleged pattern of failure on the part of McDonald’s to protect its workers during the pandemic.

One of the complaints alleges McDonald’s required employee Bartolome Perez and other workers to perform work in “an unsafe manner and under hazardous conditions” at the company’s 2838 Crenshaw Blvd. location in Los Angeles.

In an April 6 notice sent to District Manager Victor Copelan, Perez said a coworker was identified as having COVID-19, yet managers failed to inform other workers who were in the store during that week and might have had direct or indirect contact with the sick worker.

“I have complained to our manager Jose about these hazards and the failure to fix them,” Perez wrote. “They have repeatedly observed these hazards and ignored these violations,though it also violates McDonald’s own rules for food and worker safety.”

Workers at another McDonald’s at 950 W. Floral Drive in Monterey Park filed a similar action April 9 that alleges employee Sonia Betancourth was infected with the COVID-19 virus in mid- to late-March. She called in sick March 29, the complaint said, but was permitted to return to work the following morning despite exhibiting known virus symptoms.

She came in direct contact with “numerous coworkers, several of whom subsequentlydeveloped COVID-19 symptoms as well,” the action said.

In a statement issued Tuesday, McDonald’s said the company and its 2,000 franchisees are focused on “keeping more than 800,000 crew and managers employed in safe environments to serve healthcare workers, first responders and communities during this pandemic.”

The company said it has updated nearly 50 processes to keep restaurant employees and customers safe and has issued a 59-page guide outlining national standards restaurants must implement.

“These include wellness checks, protective barriers, adhering to social distancing guidelines for customers and crew, using gloves and masks, increasing the frequency of hand washing and moving to contactless operations,” the statement said.

Class-action lawsuit

Five McDonald’s workers in Chicago and four of their family members filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday against the company, alleging a failure to to provide adequate training, allow for proper social distancing and notify employees when coworkers have tested positive.

The action says that runs counter to government and expert recommendations and “exposes workers and the public to an increased risk of infection.”

The complaint, filed Tuesday morning in Circuit Court of Cook County, zeroes in on four McDonald’s restaurants across Chicago, including franchise and corporate-run outlets.

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Author: Kevin Smith