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McDonald's employees file lawsuit claiming they're working in unsafe conditions

The lawsuit claims employees weren't given enough hand sanitizer, gloves and masks.
/ Source: TODAY

Five McDonald's employees and four of their family members have filed a lawsuit in Illinois that claims the Chicago-based company didn't provide workers with adequate protections against the coronavirus.

The lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, was filed Tuesday in Cook County with the goal of having an Illinois state court issue an injunction that would force McDonald's to require face coverings for customers, inform employees of coworkers who test positive for COVID-19, and prevent workers from having to reuse masks.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Arnhem
A group of McDonald's employees has filed a lawsuit claiming the company did not give them adequate protection during the coronavirus pandemic, which McDonald's has denied.Piroschka van de Wouw / Reuters

It also claims that employees were not given an adequate amount of hand sanitizer, gloves and masks and were not told by superiors when a coworker tested positive for the virus.

McDonald's said in a statement to TODAY that a press release by the Service Employees International Union outlining the lawsuit contains "inaccurate characterizations" and that it has provided adequate protective equipment and safety protocols.

"Crew and managers are the heart and soul of the restaurants in which they work, and their safety and well-being is a top priority that guides our decision making,'' the company said in its statement. "Since February, McDonald’s USA has updated nearly 50 processes to keep restaurant employees and customers safe and has issued a 59-page guide outlining national standards restaurants must implement.

"These include wellness checks, protective barriers, adhering to social distancing guidelines for customers and crew, using gloves and masks, increasing the frequency of handwashing and moving to contactless operations. PPE is in ample supply for all restaurants, as masks, gloves and protective barriers are required at all restaurants; to-date, more than 100 million masks have been distributed to crew."

The lawsuit also claims that employees at one location were not told by managers that a coworker had tested positive for coronavirus and that employees at four locations were unable to practice social distancing because they had to work in crowded kitchens.

Employees at three McDonald's restaurants in California also filed notices of intent to sue on Tuesday with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency alleging unsafe work conditions. McDonald's has 33 days to fix the violations or the workers can take the company to court, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

McDonald's is the latest company to face legal action over allegedly failing to protect workers during the pandemic. The family of a 51-year-old Walmart employee in Chicago who died from coronavirus filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company last month, and workers at a pork processing plant in Missouri sued Smithfield Foods last month saying they were made to work in unsafe conditions.