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Judge temporarily blocks Oakland McDonald’s from reopening amid COVID-19 concerns

Daniel Wiessner  

Daniel Wiessner  

(Reuters) - A California state judge on Tuesday said a McDonald’s franchise in Oakland cannot reopen for business at least until after a hearing next week in a lawsuit claiming the owner failed to take basic steps to protect workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney in Oakland issued a temporary restraining order through July 2 and said the franchisee, VES McDonald’s, must show at the hearing that day that it will make protective gear available to employees, grant leave to sick workers and “deep clean” the restaurant in order to reopen.
 
McKinney said the franchise on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland could reopen sooner with the permission of county health officials.
 
John Skonberg of Littler Mendelson, who represents VES, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
 
Michael Rubin of Altshuler Berzon, who represents a group of VES employees that sued the company last week, said he was pleased with the decision.
 
”Although these crew members want to get back to work, they want to work under conditions that don’t jeopardize their lives and the lives of their family members and the community,” Rubin said.
 
The plaintiffs claim VES created a “public nuisance” by failing to protect workers, leading to an outbreak that has sickened at least 35 people.
 
They said in their complaint last week that VES provided them with dog diapers and coffee filters to use as masks, discouraged sick employees from taking time off. They also claim VES failed to enforce social distancing and properly sanitize surfaces.
 
The restaurant closed on May 26 after most of its employees refused to come to work because they feared becoming sick, Rubin said on Tuesday.
 
The plaintiffs have accused VES of unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance in violation of state law, and said the company violated an Oakland ordinance passed last month requiring employers to give workers up to two weeks of paid leave during the pandemic.
 
Illinois-based McDonald’s is not involved in the case, but is the subject of a lawsuit in Illinois state court claiming it has failed to take steps to protect workers at several corporate-owned restaurants in Chicago.
 
McDonald’s has said that it has implemented various policies in line with guidance from government health authorities, such as social distancing and screening workers prior to their shifts.
 
The case is Hernandez v. VES McDonald’s, California Superior Court, Alameda County, No. RG20064825.
 
For the plaintiffs: Michael Rubin of Altshuler Berzon
 
For VES: John Skonberg of Littler Mendelson

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