If These Charges Are True, Do You Really Think McDonald’s Can Afford To Pay More?

Some former employees of McDonald’s are suing the restaurant chain in three states. In California, Michigan, and New York they are alleging that the restaurants “illegally underpaid employees by erasing hours from their timecards, not paying overtime and ordering them to work off the clock.”

According to the New York Times:

The lawsuits were announced Thursday by the employees’ lawyers and organizers of the union-backed movement that is pressing the nation’s fast-food restaurants to increase wages to at least $15 an hour.

In two lawsuits filed in Michigan against McDonald’s and two Detroit-area franchise owners, workers claimed that their restaurants told them to show up to work, but then ordered them to wait an hour or two without pay until enough customers arrived.

Those lawsuits also argued that a McDonald’s requirement that employees pay for their uniforms illegally reduced their pay below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

“Our wages are already at rock bottom,” Sharnell Grandberry, a McDonald’s worker in Detroit, said in a news release announcing the suit. “It is time for McDonald’s to stop skirting the law to pad profits. We need to get paid for the hours we work.”

I don’t understand how this is helping build a case for McDonald’s to pay “at least” $15 an hour. It looks to me like direct evidence that we might soon see more McDonald’s restaurants closing unless the government gets busy and reduces minimum wage.

I completely agree that erasing time from the clock is robbery and should never have happened (assuming the employee was making a good faith effort to do his work at a reasonable speed and not deliberately extend his own time on the clock). But it does show a desperation that is inconsistent with the attitude that all McDonald’s restaurants can cough up double pay.

Also, it is obvious that the McDonald’s corporation did not make these decisions, so why are they being sued?

The lawyers are contending that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer and share liability with its franchisees, although the company, like many other fast-food chains with franchises, has argued in the past that it is not a joint employer and should not be liable for its franchisees’ misdeeds on the ground that the franchised restaurants are independently run businesses.

I have to say that McDonald’s position makes more sense to me.

While some of the accusations may be serious, others seem silly. If McDonald’s can be sued for expecting employees to wash their own uniforms, than so can any employer who requires his employees to show up to work in clean clothes. Or maybe I can sue my sons’ employers for not providing deodorant, shampoo, and subsidies for the hot water they use because they have to show up to work in a state of cleanliness.

There are some other aspects to this lawsuit that are a learning opportunity about the nature of business that I will analyze in another post. But if I were McDonald’s I would sue over some of the more frivolous allegations. Since the Service Employees International Union is sponsoring the lawsuits as part of a campaign to harass fast-food restaurants to pay more, I think they would richly deserve a taste of their own medicine. After all, they only pay minimum wage to McDonald’s employees.

Maybe if they get enough of SEIU’s assets, they can give their employees a bonus. They obviously cannot afford to pay more while they are being sued.