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McDonald's penalty the very start to more legal actions 

A McDonald's Queensland franchisee that suggested it could stop staff from using the toilet or drinking water outside scheduled breaks has been ordered to pay penalties totalling $82,000 in what sends a “clear message”.

user iconTony Zhang 17 November 2020 Big Law
McDonald's penalty the very start to more legal actions
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The Federal Court has ruled Tantex Holdings, which runs six Queensland restaurants to pay the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union $72,000 and former Brisbane crew member Chiara Staines $10,000.

“Shine Lawyers congratulates Chiara Staines and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union for having the courage to expose breaches of workplace laws across six McDonald's restaurants,” Vicky Antzoulatos, class actions practice leader at Shine Lawyers, said.

However, Ms Antzoulous stated that this matter has only just begun.

 
 

“Sadly, we know this is not an isolated case because more than 15,000 past and present employees have registered their interest in a potential class action by Shine Lawyers over the same failure to provide paid rest breaks,” she said.

“While the penalty may seem like a drop in the ocean for a global fast-food giant, today’s judgment in the Federal Court sends a clear message to McDonald's that fundamental workers’ rights are not up for negotiation.

“We are continuing to investigate legal action and urge all current or former McDonald’s employees who worked shifts of four hours or more from 2014 to date to contact Shine Lawyers.”

According to court documents, a general manager of a McDonald's franchisee, Tantex Holdings, had made a Facebook post telling a group of crew members the company was not obliged to let them go to the toilet outside scheduled breaks.

“What this means is that if we implement this over our current situation, on your shift – this 10 minute break would be the only time you would ever be permitted to have a drink or go to the toilet, the post wrote.

Justice John Logan said the threat made by Mr Crenicean was “a sinister one’’.

“There is a quality of cruelty to workers about it,’’ he said.

Justice Logan found workers were entitled to use the bathroom when reasonable outside of their paid 10-minute breaks.

After the retail union took a case to the Federal Court, in September Justice Logan ruled that Tantex was guilty of several contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

Justice Logan found Tantex had failed to provide Ms Staines with 10-minute paid drink breaks.

He also found the franchisee had recklessly made false representations about the rights of employees at its McDonald's Central Station restaurant in Ann St, Brisbane.

Josh Cullinan, Secretary of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) said they launched the prosecution of Tantex Holdings, one year ago and are delighted with the outcome in the Federal Court.

“The outrageous coercion of children by this employer – which continues to employ hundreds of children and young workers – was absolutely unlawful and it must now pay the penalties imposed on it,” he said.

“However, the only worker it has compensated is our member and co-applicant, Chiara Staines. Thousands of other workers have not been compensated at all.

“It is essential that workers who want to pursue compensation not delay and register for our investigation into a potential class action with Shine Lawyers.”

Shine Lawyers and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union are currently investigating a class action on behalf of 250,000 workers against McDonald's over claims the company failed to provide employees with paid rest breaks.

This comes as the class actions landscape continues to evolve in Australia with Lawyers Weekly presenting a special two-part episode exploring all things class actions in 2020 and beyond with Maurice Blackburn national head of class actions Andrew Watson.

The first part discusses where the parliamentary inquiry into litigation funding and industry regulation is at, the position of plaintiff firms with regards to that inquiry, with the second part diving deeper into the challenges surrounding contingency fees and common fund orders and the duties of leaders in class actions teams at this critical juncture.