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Workers, public advocate accuse McDonald's of 'wage theft'
Workers rallied at a Manhattan McDonald's on Tuesdayto protest what they allege is widespread "wage theft" by the corporation.
The workers, who gathered in front of the restaurant at 341 5th Ave., were supported by Public Advocate Letitia James, who announced she will introduce legislation in the City Council that would create a hotline for workers to report incidents of wage theft. She said her office has received several complaints related to illegal labor practices by fast food companies.
A class-action lawsuit filed in New York last week alleging that McDonald's isn't paying workers for all of their hours and does not reimburse for expenses, such as laundry allowances, which the company is required to do under state law.
Once unpaid work time and business expenses are factored in, along with already-low lages, workers are receiving below minimum wage, according to the lawsuit.
Similar lawsuits were also filed in California and Michigan.
James said workers are often unable to afford clothes, food and rent because of the wages they make.
"These companies should pay their hardworking employees enough to cover the necessities and support their families, not force taxpayers to shoulder their burden," she said.
Ricky Padin, of the Bronx, has worked at a Manhattan McDonald's for almost two years and says he's been made to work during breaks without pay and has not received reimbursement for washing his uniform, which costs about $10 a week, he said.
"I have opened my paycheck and found hours missing that I never got paid for," Padin, 25, said. "I work hard, but I can't make ends meet. The combination of low pay and wage theft has me falling further and further behind."
On the McDonald's website, a company spokeswoman, Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, issued a statement in regard to the wage theft lawsuits:
"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. We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits ... and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations."
Also Tuesday, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a $500,000 settlement with the owner of seven McDonald's franchises in Manhattan.
The Cisneros Group, the owner, had allegedly failed to pay laundry allowances, failed to fully compensate workers and had illegally required cashiers to cover cash register shortfalls from their own wages, the attorney general's office said.
The settlement money will go to more than 1,600 workers. That settlement is part of an ongoing investigation into workplace violations by fast food employers.
Thursday, several groups will rally in front of the state Senate office in Manhattan in favor of raising the minimum wage; stopping discrimination against women and older workers; and enforcing current labor laws.