Oakland McDonald’s Ordered to Improve Worker Safety After Coronavirus Outbreak

All workplaces across California should prioritize worker safety no matter what, whether it involves purchasing protective equipment or providing special training. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, has required employers to take extra steps to ensure employees are safe on the job.

Workers at a McDonald’s restaurant in Oakland recently spoke up after a lack of safety measures resulted in a workplace COVID-19 outbreak last year. A group of cooks and cashiers filed a public nuisance lawsuit against their employer in June 2020.

Around 25 McDonald’s workers and their family members, including a 10-month-old baby, were infected with COVID-19 during the outbreak in spring 2020. Employees claimed management told them to use dog diapers and coffee filters as face masks during the outbreak. Managers also used an inaccurate thermometer when conducting pre-shift temperature checks of workers and failed to enforce physical distancing. 

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ordered the Telegraph Avenue McDonald’s franchise to implement 11 health and safety measures. As part of the August 12 settlement, the restaurant agreed to set up a safety committee.

Managers will be required to follow new worker safety measures. Recommendations include allowing paid sick leave, providing proper masks and gloves, mandating physical distancing, deep cleaning surfaces and carrying out contact tracing if a worker tests positive for the coronavirus.

The safety committee is believed to be the first of its kind at a McDonald’s restaurant. It will consist of monthly meetings between management and staff to discuss how to maintain worker safety.

The McDonald’s corporation itself was not named in the lawsuit. According to a report in SFGATE, franchises received handbooks that contained safety policies for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angely Lambert, one of the lawsuit’s five plaintiffs, highlighted the change that can come about when workers speak up. Lambert said, “We joined together and fought for our dignity as human beings — and we won… We will keep fighting to make sure that every worker, in fast food and beyond, has a voice on the job.”

If your employer is violating your right to a safe workplace, you should not tolerate the dangerous working conditions. Discuss your situation with an experienced Oakland employment lawyer. Erlich Law Firm can provide legal advice on how to get your employer to take workplace safety seriously. Contact us today to learn more.

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