Workers in California achieved a victory late last month when a fast-food giant agreed to pay out a lawsuit settlement.
In a U.S. district court filing in San Francisco, McDonald’s agreed to pay $3.75 million, settling a lawsuit that claimed the company was responsible for a California franchisee violating labor laws. According to the lawyers representing 800 workers at five different McDonald’s locations in Illinois, owned by one franchisee, workers will receive $1.75 million in back pay and damages and $2 million in legal fees.
The news was music to the ears of some workers.
“When we join together and speak out, McDonald’s can’t ignore us,” said Anggie Godoy, a Los Angeles McDonald’s worker and a member of the Fight for $15 National Organizing Committee, in a statement. “This settlement is just the latest example of how workers in the Fight for $15 are holding the company accountable. The courageous McDonald’s workers who brought this suit forced one of the world’s most powerful companies to take responsibility for the way it treats us. I’m gratified the workers reached a settlement they are happy with and hope McDonald’s has learned its lesson—stealing wages from hard-working cooks and cashiers who are already struggling to get by on low pay is never okay.”
According to the original lawsuit, filed in 2014, workers claimed McDonald’s and franchisee Smith Family LP violated California labor laws by refusing to pay overtime, keep accurate pay records or reimburse workers for time spent cleaning uniforms. This settlement is the first time McDonald’s corporate is paying franchise workers to settle a suit, said lawyers involved.
Earlier last month, women workers from McDonald’s restaurants announced that they had filed 15 federal complaints against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to the complaints, workers said they alerted general managers and corporate staff to sexual harassment incidents on the job, but there was no response. In a few cases, workers said managers retaliated against them for bringing the allegations up.
The complaints were filed at both corporate and franchise McDonald’s stores.
Workers fighting for a living wage have kept the fast-food conglomerate in their crosshairs all year. Back in May, workers walked off the job and marched to the company’s Oak Brook, Ill., headquarters to protest during their annual shareholders meeting. McDonald’s workers were joined by home care workers, child care workers and other workers and denounced the company for having stocks hit an all-time high while still refusing to pay their workers a living wage.