Fast-food workers sue McDonald's for wage theft

Protests by fast-food workers over low pay have extended into the courthouse. A group of McDonald's (MCD) employees have filed as class-action against franchise owners and their corporate parent for alleged wage theft.

Thirteen plaintiffs in seven different federal lawsuits in California, Michigan and New York claim that franchise owners or McDonald's itself did not pay for overtime due to them, failed to reimburse workers for purchasing and cleaning uniforms, and forced employees to work off the clock. According to a news release, four cases in California also claim that franchise owners and McDonald's did not provide "timely meal periods and rest breaks" and altered pay records.

Michael Rubin, an attorney who filed the suits in California, claims that the alleged practices are an effort "to drive labor costs down by stealing wages from McDonald's workers."

Two Michigan suits allege that McDonald's and franchise owners sometimes have workers show up at a scheduled time and then wait without pay for up to an hour until there is enough business, claiming that the employers "routinely" violate wage laws. The suits also allege that workers are sometimes forced to clock out for long breaks if business slows enough and are required to pay for their own uniforms, which the litigants say "drives some workers' real wages below the legal minimum, in violation of federal labor law."

McDonald's said it is reviewing the allegations.

"McDonald's and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald's restaurants," the company said in a statement emailed to CBS MoneyWatch. "We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald's and our independent franchisees are committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations."

McDonald's and other fast-food chains have faced a number of protests over the last year by workers demanding better pay. In 2013, wages for food preparation and serving workers averaged $9.03 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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