McDonald’s Lawsuit Ends With $26 Million Settlement

mcdonald's lawsuitAfter years of legal wrangling, a McDonald’s lawsuit was settled in November of 2019. This McDonald’s Class action lawsuit was first filed back in 2013. In this McDonald’s class-action lawsuit, workers claimed that the employer had wrongfully underpaid cashiers and cooks in California. It is yet another prime example of a big corporation that was brought to heel by the courts after engaging in unfair business practices. If you feel your employer may be bending the law at your expense, seeking the help of a local labor attorney may be a good move.

The McDonald’s Lawsuit

McDonald’s employees had several specific claims against the fast food giant:

  • Workers’ shifts were structured so as to deny overtime pay to employees.  The company claimed that if a shift was split up within a 24-hour period, the worker was ineligible for overtime.  So if an employee worked from 9 pm. to 3 a.m. on one shift, and worked from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. in a successive shift, McDonalds refused to pay overtime despite 12 hours of work in a 24-hour period.
  • Breaks were allowed only at the beginnings and ends of shifts, not in the middle when business picked up and when workers could use the rest;
  • Employee uniforms were required to be cleaned and ironed, but employees were not given compensation for their care, particularly when clothing was damaged due to grease and smoke in the workplace.

Seven years of this McDonald’s lawsuit negotiations finally resulted in a truce of sorts.  A settlement, which must still be approved by a judge, serves to both address past employee complaints and ensure compliance to the law in the future.  The agreement has a number of requirements for the corporation:

  • McDonalds’ must pay overtime, and have an electronic tracking system for breaks and wages;
  • Rest breaks must be provided during workers’ shifts, not just at the beginning or end; the company agreed to fork over a one-hour wage premium in the event a meal or rest break is interrupted and employees are asked to work.
  • The employer must replace uniforms following normal wear and tear or damage from the work site.

Although McDonald’s admitted no wrongdoing, nearly 40,000 California employees are reaping the benefits of the $26 million settlement, along with coming changes to daily practice.

The company issued a statement that claims they believed employment practices always complied with labor laws in the state.  Nonetheless, it is working to improve training programs for restaurants owned by the company in an effort to encourage strict compliance with legal requirements. [Read more…]

Commute Time Compensation?

commute time compensationCommute time compensation? Most people who work spend a fair amount of time commuting to the job site. Furthermore, many jobs require workers to commute as part of the job. With such variety in the expectations and commuting requirements for various occupations, how can you know whether or not your employer is treating you fairly when it comes to commute time? Actually, the courts have come up with some pretty clear guidelines on this topic.   

Commuting in a Company Vehicle

Installation and repair crews for Pacific Bell Telephone Company believed they should be paid for their commute time to and from home because they were driving vehicles that were provided by Pacific Bell, and those vehicles were equipped with the tools and equipment necessary to address customer needs. They decided to pursue the issue in court.  

Details of the Commute Time Case

Technicians were paid hourly for an eight-hour day to address customer issues at customer’s homes. While driving the prescribed vehicle and using company tools was required, employees had a couple of choices when it came to those vehicles:

  • Technicians could take the company vehicle to and from their own homes. This option was known as the Home Dispatch Program (HDP). Technicians received no pay for their commute time driving to a customer’s home prior to 8:00, and they were not compensated for the time spent driving home after their last appointment.
  • Employees could drive their personal vehicles to the Pacific Bell garage to exchange it for a Pacific Bell vehicle. These employees were paid for their time spent going to the garage in the morning, and from the garage home at the end of a shift.

In either case, employees were compensated for the commute time driving to and from the warehouse when they needed to restock materials for the job.

Court Findings

The California Supreme Court defined hours worked as those hours during which an employer maintains control of an employee. The issue of employer control was central to their findings, and was directly correlated to whether or not riding in employee-provided transportation was required. The court referred to Morillion v Royal Packing Co., which dealt with a similar issue. In that case, workers were required to meet at a particular place in order to take the company bus to the worksite. Employees were under the control of their employers at that point because they could not make the decision to stop at a drive-through window for coffee, could not pick up or drop off kids on the way, and could not run other errands while on the bus. Therefore, the commute time on the bus counted as hours worked.  

In the case of the Pacific Bell Workers, employees were not required to drive a company vehicle to and from home. Additionally, they were free to make stops during their commute time in the company vehicle, meaning the worker was not under the control of the company. Therefore the commute time spent under the HDP plan was not compensable. [Read more…]

The Rights Employees do and do Not Have

Employee RightsWhat are my rights as an employee? Is your employer crimping your style at the office? Does it feel as though you are walking on eggshells because you are so unsure of what is ok and what is not? Sure, everyone knows discrimination is illegal and that the workplace has to accommodate for disabilities. What about the nitty-gritty things that nobody ever talks about? Uncertainty is an ugly companion on the job; it is better to clarify your rights at work from the get go. If serious concerns arise, a local employment attorney could help.

These Activities Fall Within Your Rights:

  • Discussing working conditions: If you have concerns about safety conditions, are curious about how much money your co-workers make, or believe certain policies are unfair, you have every right to discuss those issues with your colleagues. If you have been forbidden to do so by policy or contract, there is a good possibility your employer is breaking the law.
  • Keeping copies of signed documents: When you hire on with a company, they may ask you to sign a mountain of paperwork, from arbitration clauses to confidentiality agreements. Make sure you get copies of everything you put your signature to, so if problems arise later, you are clear about what their expectations are, and you can better evaluate how you will handle disputes.
  • Having a copy of the employee manual: Are you required to read and know what is in the employee manual? If so, you are entitled to have a copy, whether it is a hard copy or an online manual.
  • Receiving overtime pay for hours over 40: If you are an hourly employee, you must be paid time and a half for any hours exceeding 40 in one week. Employers sometimes try to get around paying for overtime by misclassifying workers as salaried, requiring employees to complete duties off the clock, requiring both exempt and non-exempt duties in your job description, and a multitude of other tricks.

These Activities are Not Protected at Work

That does not mean, however, that employees have free reign at work. There are plenty of activities in which employees assume they can engage, but that could get them into legitimate trouble with the boss.

  • Complaining about your job: You can actually be fired for complaining about problems at work if those problems are not the result of illegal behavior. So, if you want grouse about how unprofessional your boss is in his or her attire, bite your tongue. Even away from work, those kinds of comments can get you canned.
  • Getting into an argument with a co-worker: Whether talking about politics, education, or any other topic, do not assume you can freely spout your opinions. You are being paid to do a job, not change the world with your views on the state of the White House. Avoid disputes that should not be occurring in the office.

Protecting Workers’ Rights

At Beck Law P.C., we work hard on behalf of clients whose workplace rights have been violated. If you need legal advocacy in Sonoma County, Mendocino County, or Lake County California, contact us in Santa Rosa today.

Pregnancy or Career – Can You Have Both?

PregnancyAre you currently pregnant or considering pregnancy? Well the decision to start a family is complex and requires a number of considerations, but pressure from your employer should not be one of them. The law offers specific discriminatory protections for mothers or potential mothers in the workplace. An experienced employment lawyer can help you with issues in the event you feel you are experiencing pregnancy discrimination.

Federal Protections

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits workplace discrimination related to pregnancy. That means that being pregnant cannot influence any decisions regarding hiring, pay, job assignments, training opportunities, layoffs or firing. Additionally, benefits relating to health insurance or leave cannot be determined based on this status.

Physical Limitations

If your pregnancy interferes with your ability to perform duties normally associated with your position, your employer must provide alternate assignments, disability leave, or other leave just as it would for any other temporarily disabled employee. If your pregnancy results in additional health issues, such as preeclampsia, for example, the law requires reasonable accommodations.  These types of medical conditions are covered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Ace Amendments Act of 2008.

Reasonable Modifications

Modifications must be based on individual circumstances and needs.  Some common accommodations that might be required include:

  • Eliminating non-essential functions (such as heavy lifting) from the workload for a period of time;
  • Allowing frequent restroom breaks;
  • Modifying daily schedules to accommodate morning sickness;
  • Allowing an employee to be seated when standing might normally be expected.

What is Harassment and Discrimination?

Clearly, harassment, intimidation, and any discrimination surrounding pregnancy or childbirth is unlawful. Any behavior that creates an offensive or hostile work environment due to its frequency or severity, or that results in an unfavorable job action, may be actionable. Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations could also be considered discrimination.

Pregnancy and Maternity Leave

If an employer allows disabled persons to take disability leave with or without pay, the same must be offered for pregnancy-related issues. Pregnancy cannot be singled out with special rules or procedures. In addition, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 allows any new parents up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave for the care of a new child, given the employee has worked for a year prior to the requested leave.

Finally, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides that nursing mothers must be afforded the time and private location (not just a bathroom) to express milk. [Read more…]

Part-Time Workers Eligible for More Hours

part-timeAre you a part-time employee in San Jose who would love a few more hours, but who has not been able to convince your employer to give you more time on the job? If so, Measure E might just make you smile.

Measure E Voted in

This measure, approved by voters in November, came into effect in March 2017. It requires that employers with 36 or more employees must give current part-time employees more working hours if more work is available. That is in direct contrast with some employers’ previous decisions to simply hire additional part-time workers.

The law impacts all part-time workers, including temporary workers and subcontractors. The limit to the law is that the additional work may not be at overtime or premium rates; nor does the law override collective bargaining agreements.

For franchises and chains owned by the same employer, the number of employees is determined by adding the combined number of employees at each location of the business, including those businesses located outside of San Jose.

Workplace Definitions

Anyone who has completed a minimum of two hours of work is considered an employee and is entitled to minimum wage in California.

An employer is one who exercises control over the schedule, wages, or working conditions of workers, and either pays San Jose business taxes or is legally exempt from those taxes, including insurance companies, banks and nonprofit organizations.

Enforcement Provisions

You must post in your workplace a bulletin in multiple languages outlining the new work hour requirements and provisions. Non-compliance could result in fines and penalties to the employer, or potentially even a civil action.

Exemptions to the Part-Time Law

For employers with 35 or fewer employees, the ordinance does not apply.

An additional exemption is allowed for hardship. An employer may be granted a hardship exemption for as much as 12 months at a time, if said employer can establish that they have attempted to comply with the law but that compliance would be either impractical, futile, or impossible.

Impacts Outside of San Jose

This initiative led to the introduction of the Opportunity to Work Act. This legislation contains language similar to that of the San Jose measure, but would apply to employers with 10 or more employees. The proposed law is quite a bit more restrictive, in that this measure contains language addressing retaliation, and does not provide hardship exemptions. Employers and employees alike are keeping an eye on this legislation to see how it falls out. [Read more…]

Workplace Protection

workplace protectionLast January, a number of bills, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2016 become effective. Many of those bills involve workplace protection, and compliance is required of California’s employers. If you are unclear about workplace protection compliance mandates with these or any employment laws, you may wish to enlist the help of an experienced employment law attorney.

Workplace Protection – New Laws that Impact You

  • SB 1732: Toilet facilities in businesses, government agencies, or places of public accommodation that are single-user facilities must be designated as all-gender facilities as of March 2017.
  • AB 1887: Travel prohibitions have been established forbidding state agencies from requiring employees to travel to states with laws that do not have protections against discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression. This means that state dollars may not be used for travel to states who repealed these types of laws.
  • SB 1234: Eligible employers, based on the number of eligible employees, who do not currently offer retirement plans must now participate in a payroll deposit savings arrangement allowing employees to join in the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program.
  • AB 2337: Employers are required to inform employees of their rights when experiencing domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Forms created by the Labor Commissioner’s office must be posted by July 1 of this year.
  • ABX2-7: This law expands smoking restrictions in hotel lobbies, taverns and bars, banquet rooms, employee break rooms, and warehouses. Tobacco is no longer allowed in these areas, even in owner-operated businesses.
  • SB 1167: The Division of Occupational Safety and Health is required to propose a heat illness and injury prevention standard related to indoor employment locations by January of 2019.
  • SB 1241: Employers are prohibited from requiring employees who reside and work primarily in California from having claims adjudicated outside of California.
  • SB 1007: Employees who are involved in arbitration hearings are entitled to have a certified shorthand reporter available to transcribe proceedings, hearings, or dispositions.
  • SB 3: For employers with more than 25 employees, minimum wage increased from $10.00 to $10.50 per hour in January 2017. That increase will apply to employers with fewer employees in 2018. Further incremental increases have been established up to the year 2023.
  • SB 1015: The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, originally scheduled to expire this year, has been extended indefinitely, providing wage and hour protections to domestic workers.
  • SB 1063: Workers of all races and ethnicities must be paid the same amount for work that is essentially the same.

Penalties for Workplace Compliance Employment Law Violations [Read more…]


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