Michael Smith, the franchise owner of a McDonald’s restaurant in Oakland, California, has been blamed for the working conditions he has put his employees in. Four employees have filed a lawsuit against him in blaming the conditions at the business for a coronavirus outbreak there, saying that they were asked to work even after they got sick, given makeshift items for face masks including dog diapers and coffee filters.
Micheal Rubin, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told SFGate.com, “They were provided as a stopgap but were completely inadequate, and it’s somewhat offensive that the company wouldn’t provide adequate masks. Eventually, they were given masks meant for one-time use, but they were told to use them day after day after day. One worker who had symptoms complained of being sick and said she couldn’t breathe and was told by the manager to just pull the mask down, which means this woman was infecting other people.”
Oakland McDonald’s Employees Claimed Being Given to Use Dog Diapers and Coffee Filters as Face Masks
All four employees contracted COVID-19, and Rubin said that it resulted in 25 more cases of the virus, including employees, family members, and employees from another McDonald’s in Berkeley. McDonald’s workers from the Berkeley location are suspected to have contracted the illness when the managers of both the fast-food chains had a meeting, and one employee’s baby had a temperature of 104 degrees after becoming ill.
Attorney B.J. Chisholm, who represents Yamilette Olimara Osoy Hernandez, told reporters, “Store managers do not enforce social distancing, and they do not give us proper gloves or sufficient masks,” and Hernandez added, “First, I had to buy masks with my own money. And at one point, the manager tried to give us dog diapers to use as masks.”
Smith addressed the accusations in a statement to the Bay Area News Group, saying,
“We identified and reached out to all restaurant staff who had been in close contact with the employees who contracted the virus and advised they self-quarantine in accordance with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines. We expect to reopen in a few days when we can safely staff the restaurant again. Our people are the heart and soul of our McDonald’s family, and we are keeping those impacted in our thoughts for a fast and full recovery.”
He also explained that workers at his McDonald’s location were required to wear personal protective equipment at all times and shut down the rumors that his employees had to wear coffee filters and doggie diapers for face masks instead. Nevertheless, the franchise followed California’s state-ordered health department guidelines, providing employees with paid leave and “nearly $20,000 worth of grocery gift cards to further aid them during this difficult time.”