McDonald’s employees' suit claims constant violence and a dead body found in store

McDonald’s employees in Chicago are suing the company over its alleged pattern of violence.

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In the Illinois lawsuit filed Thursday, 17 workers claim employees at the fast-food giant “face a daily risk of violence while at work” and that the company has been lax in reducing risk.

They point to high rates of 911 calls from Chicago McDonald’s, citing more than 20 a day.

One example of violence outlined in the suit cites a customer who jumped over the counter and pulled a gun on workers, another points to a customer urinating on a worker and another calls out a customer hitting an employee repeatedly with a yellow wet-floor sign.

Sonia Acuña, a McDonald’s worker and plaintiff in the suit, said police once found a dead body in her store’s bathroom and the company didn’t offer proper support. “McDonald’s never provided any safety training or offered any support for the trauma I’ve suffered," she said in a press release. "We shouldn’t have to put ourselves in harm’s way just to support our families. That’s why we’re suing McDonald’s today — because it’s life or death for us.”

In a May report from the National Employment Law Project, officials said, "McDonald's is failing in its legal duty to provide employees a safe work environment,” adding that long hours at stores put workers “at risk due to the high levels of violence associated with late-night retail.” The report found more than 720 violent incidents in three years.

McDonald's does offer an employee training program with guidance to alleviate workplace violence. It said in a statement that it "takes seriously its responsibility to provide and foster a safe working environment, and along with our franchisees, continue to make investments in training programs that uphold safe environments for customers and crew members.” Plus, the brand said, it holds “stringent policies against violence in our restaurants.”

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While about 90 percent of McDonald's locations are franchised, McDonald's corporation can still be held responsible for the incidents since it owns the buildings and sets the standards for training, Danny Rosenthal, the lead attorney in the lawsuit, told USA Today.

“McDonald's has utterly failed to design stores that minimize the chance for violence,” he said, adding that the company has “failed to provide even basic training that would help workers minimize conflict or respond appropriately when it occurs.''

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The suit comes as many fast-food brands are facing violent incidents at stores. Early this month, a Maryland man was stabbed to death in a brawl over Popeyes' new chicken sandwich. And in October, a McDonald’s customer in Ohio claims they were hit in face with a blender after a spat with an employee. The suit comes after McDonald's Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook was fired for having a relationship with an employee.

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McDonald's stock is up 5 percent on the year and 8 percent year-to-date.

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