Workers at a McDonald’s located in Oakland allege that management’s mishandling over health and safety practices allowed for the accelerated spread of the virus among workers and the community. These workers are now taking their grievances to court as four workers have filed a public nuisance suit in the Alameda Superior Court.
The complaint filed describes a work environment where management did not follow the health and safety guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and continuously ignored the concerns of workers. Allegedly, the restaurant failed to provide its workers with sufficient and adequate personal protective equipment. Workers state that there was never enough masks, therefore, management made them reuse the same disposable mask for multiple days. Ultimately, when the masks would run out they were given faulty masks made out coffee filters and dog diapers. There was also no social distancing practices set in place for workers.
Additionally, when workers began feeling sick and demonstrated symptoms of COVID-19, management discouraged these workers from taking paid sick leave. One worker, Yamilette Olimara Osoy Hernandez, recounts her experience claiming that despite developing headaches and body aches management would not allow her to go home because there was no one else to cover her shift. Hernandez, among other workers were forced to continue working despite exhibiting symptoms related to COVID-19.
Once some workers became aware that they were COVID-19 positive management then failed to inform the rest of their employees that they have been exposed to the virus. In the complaint filed, workers claim that it was management’s failure to act on behalf of the safety and health of all that caused an acceleration of COVID-19 infections in the restaurant and in the community, as workers allege that as a direct result of management’s negligence, the virus spread to 35 people.
Hernandez, whose own 10-month-old son contracted the virus from her, states “I believe the outbreak in the East Bay is a direct result of McDonald’s putting profits ahead of the safety of workers of color who are risking our lives to sell the company’s burgers and fries during this pandemic.”
This McDonald’s restaurant has now been closed, as soon after the outbreak its employees went on strike. Recently, a judge has ordered the restaurant to remain closed until the courts makes a decision on whether the owner must improve its health and safety practices. The workers have requested a temporary restraining order until the restaurant commits in implementing COVID-19 health and safety practices along with providing its workers with Oaklands’s sick pay leave and further monetary damages.
The lead attorney for the workers, B.J. Chisholm, states that, “The company knowingly, recklessly and callously exacerbated the spread of COVID-19 in its restaurant and the community at large. Because this McDonald’s failed to prioritize safety, we are asking the court to step in, for the well-being of the workers and the community.”
The franchise has not given out a comment but the owner of the McDonald’s in question has denied the allegations and claims that the restaurant was indeed following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
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