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Fast-food workers sue over workplace violence

In addition to guarding against unlawful conduct, such as discrimination and sexual harassment, employers are responsible for other employee protections. Based, in part, on information from employment law proponents, 17 Chicago-area fast food employees sued McDonald's for a citywide and national pattern of violence.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in an Illinois state court. The employees claim that they face a daily risk of violence at work, corporate officials were negligent by failing to protect workers from violence and that workers' safety was sacrificed in favor of corporate profits.

Plaintiffs claimed that there were over 20 daily 911 calls from McDonald's Chicago locations. Incidents contained in the lawsuit included a customer who jumped over the counter and threated workers with a gun, a customer who beat a worker over the head with a heavy wet-floor sign and a patron who urinated on a worker.

Franchisees were the focus of the lawsuit because over 90 percent of McDonald locations are franchise-owned. But the plaintiffs' attorney said that the corporation has final responsibility because it owns the buildings and sets standards for their design and employee training.

He charged that McDonald's did not design restaurants that help prevent violence, and it should stop installation of a new split counter design until security issues are addressed, as it allows customers easier access to the kitchen and work area at many restaurants. Basic training that would help lessen conflict or help workers respond to violence was not provided, according to the attorney.

Many of the claims in this suit were contained in a May 2019 report from the National Employment Law Project. It claimed that McDonalds was not meeting its legal duty of providing a safe environment for its workers and indicated that there were over 720 violent incidents reported in the media over three years. Long hours of operation at this franchise put workers at risk because late night retail as high levels of violence, according to the report.

McDonald's claimed that it takes its employee safety responsibility seriously and that the corporation and its franchisees continue to invest in safety training programs. It said that it has strong polices against workplace violence.

Workers who are not afforded legal protections may be entitled to compensation and damages. An attorney can help assure that they can pursue their legal rights.

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