McDonald’s staff have teamed up with Shine Lawyers to sue the fast-food giant in a class action, following allegations that the company failed to provide its employees with paid 10-minute rest breaks.
The investigation follows a decision by the Federal Court on 31 August 2020, in an action brought by the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU), which found former employee Chiara Staines was not provided with paid 10-minute rest breaks when working shifts four hours or longer. It also found that the franchisee misrepresented the nature of the breaks Ms Staines was entitled to. Ms Staines was awarded the value of her lost rest breaks in addition to compensation for loss of amenity. A penalty was also payable.
An extensive joint investigation between Shine and RAFFWU has found that McDonald’s workers Australia wide have not been receiving their 10-minute rest break entitlements under both the McDonald’s Australian Enterprise Agreement 2013 and the Fast Food Industry Award 2010. Under these, staff are entitled to a paid 10-minute break for shifts lasting between four and nine hours, as well as two paid 10-minute breaks for shifts nine hours or longer.
Class Actions Practice Leader Vicky Antzoulatos said “What we are alleging is a systemic failure across the McDonald’s network.”
Since the launch of the investigation, Ms Antzoulatos said Shine Lawyers had been inundated with enquiries from short-changed staff.
“This class action has hit a nerve for thousands of staff, both past and present, who have been victims of the workplace breaches we allege,” said Ms Antzoulatos.
“We are dealing with a class of vulnerable workers, mostly minors, who it appears were systematically not provided with their entitled rest breaks.
Remarkably, many worked in extreme heat and other onerous conditions for hours on end and couldn’t access the toilet or a drink. This conduct has in many instances affected the physical and mental well-being of the workers, and the class action seeks to hold McDonald’s to account,”she said.
Worker with heart-disease refused breaks
For client Brayden Goebel, working at McDonald’s was emotionally and physically taxing.
Brayden Goebel has a heart condition called ‘pulmonary sclerosis,’ which causes fatigue.
“McDonald's was aware of my heart condition when they hired me and still never gave me the 10-minute break I was entitled to,” he said.
He worked at McDonald's for just under two years from 2017 – 2019. It was his first job through school and is not an experience he looks back on favourably.
“The blatant disregard shown to workers by Maccas is breathtaking. We encourage every eligible worker to get involved. They deserve full and fair compensation for what Maccas did to them,” said RAFFWU Secretary, Josh Cullinan.
Michelle Silvers, CEO of Court House Capital, which is funding the class action, said “our focus in funding this class action is to support vulnerable workers who were entitled to rest breaks during their employment, and deserve compensation for the loss of this basic right”
“We are proud to partner with Shine lawyers and RAFFWU to pursue justice for these individuals.”
Current and former McDonald’s workers who worked at any corporate owned McDonald’s store from December 2015 to December 2021, and any franchised McDonald’s store from September 2017 to December 2021 are encouraged to register their interest for the class action here.