McDonald’s facing class action on behalf of 250k workers

By Tony Zhang|01 October 2020
McDonnalds

More than 250,000 past and present Australian McDonald’s workers could be entitled to a massive payout from the fast food giant as it faces a looming class action.

Shine Lawyers and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union are investigating a class action against McDonald’s over claims the company failed to provide employees with paid rest breaks.

They are looking into whether there is a “systemic issue across all McDonald’s restaurants” in which bosses take advantage of their predominantly young staff to avoid paying for breaks.

Both the McDonald’s Australian Enterprise Agreement 2013 and the Fast Food Industry Award 2010, entitled staff to a paid 10-minute break for shifts lasting between four and nine hours, as well as two paid breaks for shifts nine hours or longer. 

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The investigation follows a decision by the Federal Court on 31 August 2020, which found former employee Chiara Staines was not provided with paid rest breaks when working shifts four hours or longer. It also found that the franchisee misrepresented the nature of the breaks Ms Staines was entitled to. 

Class actions practice leader Vicky Antzoulatos said Shine Lawyers is looking at whether Ms Staines’ case – brought by the RAFFWU – is representative of a systemic failure by McDonald’s. 

“This breach could be the tip of the iceberg with potentially hundreds of thousands of staff, both past and present, affected, if McDonald’s and its franchisees have breached the Fair Work Act across the board,” Ms Antzoulatos said.

Every Australian McDonald’s worker has the legal right to a paid break when working a shift of four hours or more. This is in addition to workers’ rights to access the toilet or to take a drink of water outside scheduled breaks.” 

One of the affected workers is Darcy Dunlop, 22, who worked at McDonald’s for over four years and had progressed to the role of area leader when he was refused paid breaks for his team members at the Erina fast food franchise in NSW, in 2018. 

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“You can’t sit, you can’t lean, you can’t go to the toilet without permission or get a drink of water, and if you ask for your owed break to be rostered in, you look like you’re letting your whole team down by being a troublemaker,” Mr Dunlop said. 

“Your stress levels rise, the kitchen feels hotter, the finish line to a shift feels even further away, and I know this impacts on workers right across Australia, which is why I urge everyone to get involved.” 

Under the McDonald’s Australia 2013 enterprise agreement, crew members are entitled to a 10-minute break when they work a four-hour shift.

Mr Dunlop said he discovered it was clearly stated in his agreement that he was meant to be getting 10-minute rest breaks, but when he tried to claim that entitlement he was pretty much laughed at.

After leaving McDonald’s in 2019, Mr Dunlop said he wants his fellow workers who have been “unjustly and unfairly treated” to get compensation.

RAFFWU secretary, Josh Cullinan, said a potential nationwide breach of agreement could have mass implications.

“They’ve got young, vulnerable and hardworking crews locked into a huge system that appears to be great for McDonald’s but is crippling the workers,” Mr Cullinan said.  

“When we litigated Ms Staines’ case she was paid over $1,800 in compensation and we believe her experience is the average experience for a quarter of a million Australian workers who have worked at McDonald’s since September 2014.”

James Rickards, the director of corporate relations for McDonald’s Australia, said in a statement the company had yet to receive any notification of the proposed class action and are unable to comment on the veracity" of the claims.

We continue to work closely with our restaurants to ensure employees receive all the correct workplace entitlements and pay, Mr Rickards said.

We remain committed to working with our employees and franchisees to ensure any concerns are addressed.

McDonald’s facing class action on behalf of 250k workers
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