Watch CBS News

Oakland McDonald's Workers File Lawsuit Over Working Conditions During COVID-19 Outbreak

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Workers at an Oakland McDonald's who allege that they were forced to use doggie diapers as a safety face masks for protection against the coronavirus filed a lawsuit Tuesday.

According to the attorney representing the employees, 25 cases of COVID-19 stems from this store, due to unsafe working conditions.

"This is the McDonald's restaurant that has gained some notoriety for making people use masks made of doggie diapers," said Michael Rubin, the attorney representing the workers.

COVID-19: Bay Area Zoos Struggling To Feed Animals, Pay Workers Due To COVID-19 Closures

Employees were pictured on social media wearing the doggie diapers along with the coffee filters they say they used as masks as well.

Angely Rodriguez, a McDonald's employee is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. She took the test for COVID 019 on May 25th and days later got a positive result.

She says she's been allergic to every medication she's been prescribed and continues to get rashes. She tested positive again for the virus last week and is now on her 2nd day of a 14-day quarantine.

Rodriguez claims she caught coronavirus from her coworkers.

"The main problem with this McDonald's is that they were so insistent in workers reporting to their shifts even when they were sick," Rubin said.

Rubin said his investigators were conducting contact tracing and fears more cases could be tied to the McDonald's located on 4514 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.

BREAKING NEWS: 4 Die In Horrific Crash As SUV Careens Off Carinquez Bridge

Although the suit doesn't name the parent company, Rubin hasn't ruled out the possibility.

"We think the McDonald cooperate is to some extent somewhat responsible because we know the McDonald's corporate micromanages the franchisees," he said,

Michael Smith, who owns the McDonald's franchise and several others in the East Bay says denies the allegations and says he personally purchased 3,000 masks and 500 sets of gloves for the 375 employees.

In a statement released Tuesday, Smith said, "The allegations raised in this lawsuit do not represent the high standards and reality our crew is bringing to life in our restaurants each day. We've worked tirelessly since March to enhance nearly 50 processes in our restaurants to put crew and customer safety and well-being as our highest priorities."

"We are closely monitoring and complying with the guidance from the CDC and all state and local orders, including sick pay and PPE requirements. The use of PPE in our restaurant, including masks and gloves, is absolutely mandatory and has been provided to our crew members. We personally purchased 3,000 masks and 500 sets of gloves for a total of 375 employees in our organization in an effort to further mitigate any risk of transmission in any of our restaurants. Out of an abundance of caution, our organization has been working closely with the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health and the City of Oakland over the past several days to develop a reopening plan at the restaurant at issue that best protects the safety of our employees and customers."

ALSO READ: Christopher Columbus Statue To Be Removed From Capitol Rotunda In Sacrament

McDonald's USA released the following statement on Wednesday morning:

"Since COVID-19 began impacting the U.S., we've enhanced nearly 50 safety protocols in restaurants including requiring masks, gloves, protective barriers and social distancing.  Employees that are sick are asked to stay home, and we have required wellness and temperature checks at the beginning of each shift to ensure our employees are feeling their best at work. We're confident the vast majority of restaurant employees impacted by COVID-19 are getting paid sick leave through existing franchisee and corporate policies, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, CARES Act and state and local regulations. 

McDonald's and our 2,000 independent franchisees are focused on keeping more than 800,000 crew and managers employed in safe environments to serve healthcare workers, first responders and communities during this pandemic. We know from our ongoing communications that this is valuable and important, particularly in these times. McDonald's has provided an unprecedented level of short term financial support to franchisees so they can focus on making every effort to maintain a safe environment. We entered this crisis from a position of strength, which means we're able to support franchisees and our employees, while also fulfilling our obligations to shareholders who invest in McDonald's because of the reliability of our dividends."

– Lindsay Rainey, McDonald's USA


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.