California Labor Commissioner Secures Reinstatement for McDonald’s Workers Fired After Reporting COVID-19 Work Hazards

Award-Winning California Employment Law Firm Since 2012
On Behalf of Law Offices of Eric A. Boyajian | April 14, 2023 Unsafe Working Conditions

Los Angeles— The California Labor Commissioner has ensured that four employees of a Los Angeles McDonald’s franchise have been reinstated to their jobs after being illegally fired in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The owners of the Marengo Street franchise will pay the workers $113,241 in lost wages, interest and retaliation penalties pursuant to Labor Code section 98.6, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their labor rights.

“During the uncertain first days of the COVID pandemic, these four brave workers stood together to protest hazardous working conditions that were putting their lives and the lives of others at risk. Their demands for basic safety measures at McDonald’s were intended to protect themselves, their families and their customers,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “This employer responded by firing the workers for exercising their rights. The outcome of this case is a testament to these workers’ courage and our collective commitment to ensure workplaces are safe for the workers and the public they serve.”

The four employees of the Marengo Street McDonald’s, operated by franchisee R&B Sanchez, had repeatedly advised their employer beginning in April 2020 about their safety and health concerns regarding being asked to reuse masks and gloves, and not being notified about positive COVID-19 cases.

They filed retaliation complaints with the Labor Commissioner’s Office in September 2020 after they were fired. The Labor Commissioner’s Office cited the employer in February 2021. After a lengthy appeals process, the citations were upheld by a hearing officer’s decision in February 2023 following a four-day hearing.

As part of the decision, McDonald’s must remove any negative references from the employee’s personnel files, and post information on the citations and violations in the workplace. Also named as jointly and severally liable are R&B Sanchez’s successor DRS Hospitality LLC, a California Limited Liability Company, owners Robert E. Sanchez and Beverly A. Sanchez, as well as Brian Sanchez, who served as the franchisee human resources officer.

The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (The Labor Commissioner’s Office) enforces more than 50 labor laws that specifically prohibit discrimination and retaliation, including Equal Pay Act violations. The Labor Commissioner’s Office investigates workplace retaliation complaints including instances of termination, suspension, transfer or demotion, reduction in pay or hours, or disciplinary actions or threats.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.” The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations, so workers and employers understand legal protections and obligations, and the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: [email protected], (510) 286-1161