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Judge orders McDonald’s to take steps to protect workers in Chicago

Daniel Wiessner  

Daniel Wiessner  

An Illinois state judge has ordered a McDonald’s Corp subsidiary and a franchisee to enforce social distancing and proper use of face masks at three Chicago restaurants, saying their alleged failure to do so is endangering public health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Judge Eve Reilly in Chicago issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, saying McDonald’s Restaurant of Illinois Inc, which operates two corporate-owned stores involved in the case, and DAK4 LLC, which owns the franchise, allowed employees to frequently come into close contact and to remove face masks while working.
 
The order came one day after a California state judge ordered an Oakland McDonald’s franchise to remain closed at least through July 2, and until the owner can show it is taking steps to protect workers, in a similar case alleging the company was creating a “public nuisance.”
 
The plaintiffs had also sought an injunction against McDonald’s Corp but Reilly only issued one against the subsidiary and the franchisee because the parent company does not directly own the restaurants.
 
Illinois-based McDonald’s in a statement said it has implemented dozens of safety measures at restaurants across the country, and has issued a guide to franchise owners requiring them to adhere to social distancing, provide masks and gloves, and set up protective barriers, among other steps.
 
Daniel Rosenthal of James & Hoffman, who represents the workers, said the injunction shows that the restaurants have failed to keep their workers safe but that “companies like McDonald’s cannot get away with creating a public nuisance.”
 
The workers sued McDonald’s, the subsidiary and DAK4 in May, claiming they were not provided with an adequate supply of face coverings, gloves, and hand sanitizer, and that McDonald’s and DAK4 were not properly monitoring infections among employees or training them on the use of protective gear and proper sanitation practices.
 
The companies had moved to dismiss the lawsuit last month, arguing that state and local health agencies were better equipped to decide whether the company had taken sufficient steps to protect workers.
 
But Reilly in a June 3 decision said the issue was whether the companies had followed guidelines issued by those agencies, which she was “well suited to handle.”
 
In opposing the preliminary injunction, the companies argued that it had taken all of the steps recommended by government agencies, and that any lapses by workers regarding social distancing or wearing face masks was corrected by store managers.
 
On Wednesday, Reilly said the plaintiffs had not shown that the companies failed to provide protective equipment and hand sanitizer, or that they were failing to screen employees for symptoms of COVID-19.
 
But she said testimony from the plaintiffs and photographs they submitted established that the restaurants were not enforcing social distancing or monitoring workers to ensure they wore masks.
 
The McDonald’s subsidiary told workers they could be less than six feet apart for up to 10 minutes at a time, which Reilly said was not recommended by any public health agencies.
 
The manager of one of the restaurants had testified that workers were “trying their best,” but the judge on Wednesday said that in a pandemic, trying is not enough.
 
”Defendants’ inability to ensure that employees are appropriately covering their face when not 6 feet apart is unreasonable given the magnitude of the potential consequences,” Reilly wrote.
 
The case is Massey v. McDonald’s Corp, Cook County Circuit Court, No. 2020-CH-4247.
 
For the plaintiffs: Daniel Rosenthal of James & Hoffman and Stephen Yokich of Dowd Bloch Bennett Cervone Auerbach & Yokich
 
For McDonald’s: Jonathan Bunge of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
 
This article has been updated to include a statement from McDonald’s.

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