- A Chicago McDonald's employee filed a complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration Friday, claiming her manager pressured her and five coworkers to continue working after testing positive for coronavirus. Business Insider reports that the employee’s manager is not honoring the employee's two weeks' of paid sick leave during quarantine.
- Another employee filed a similar complaint with OSHA one business day later, also alleging that employees have been forced to work when sick and that the restaurant has failed to provide personal protective equipment or enforce social distancing. The employees further allege two part-time employees from the restaurant have died from the coronavirus, while six have fallen ill.
- This is just the tip of the iceberg of complaints lobbed against McDonald's for COVID-related grievances. A San Jose, California, employee filed a complaint last week alleging that workers are punished if they stay home sick. Los Angeles workers also filed a COVID-19-related complaint in April and went a step further in May by filing a notice that they intended to sue the company for mishandling the pandemic
One of the employees who filed an OSHA complaint this week has done so previously, warning OSHA that this specific Chicago restaurant failed to provide adequate masks or social distancing enforcement. That initial complaint, filed in July, led to an informal investigation from OSHA. In May, Chicago employees filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the company didn't provide sufficient hand sanitizer, gloves and masks and didn't contact staff after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
In a statement provided to Business Insider, franchisee Carmen Solano-De Carrier said, "We ask all of our employees to stay home when sick, and we are offering paid sick leave to those impacted by the virus. In the event that an employee tests positive, we have contact tracing processes in place to identify and communicate to all colleagues that may have come in close contact, and we close the restaurant for a deep cleaning procedure."
McDonald's is hardly the only target for these kinds of grievances, however. Business Insider reports over 9,800 federal OSHA complaints related to COVID-19 have been filed so far this year. But the chain has had to fend off a steady stream of pandemic-related complaints throughout the country, perhaps illustrating the challenge of having such a large franchised system with the potential for disparate safety enforcement.
Early in the pandemic, chains big and small created new labor policies to protect essential workers, and McDonald's was one of them — rolling out wellness checks and pledging to pay hourly workers in quarantine. That latter policy, however, applied only to employees at company-owned stores, though the company has said many franchise owners have committed to the same benefits.
Despite these efforts, however, the chain's class action lawsuit, combined with the recent OSHA complaints, could suggest a pattern of bad policy enforcement. These types of complaints have been filed against company-owned chains like Chipotle as well, suggesting that compliance is challenging for the industry even at companies with corporate control across their whole footprint.
Legislation has been passed that specifically targets big chains to ensure they offer paid sick leave during the pandemic, but considering the steady stream of complaints, this may work better on paper than in practice. And as these complaints pile up, it's worth noting that some restaurants have been working to pass legislation providing COVID-19-related liability protections.