‘Supersize’ wage theft claim: McDonald’s sued for allegedly denying paid breaks

McDonald’s is facing a fresh legal battle launched by the fast food workers union for allegedly refusing to grant entitled rest breaks to 250,000 employees across Australia.

Workers across nearly 1000 current and former McDonald’s locations were allegedly not only not informed of their rest break entitlements, but were told that breaks could be swapped for a free soft drink or going to the toilet.

The legal claim seeks $250 million in compensation plus penalties against 400 McDonald’s operatorsCredit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) secretary Gerard Dwyer said the union had tried to address the issue with the fast food franchise, but that it has refused to admit any wrongdoing.

“It’s simply not believable that these breaks weren’t denied on purpose,” Dwyer said. “McDonald’s shouldn’t have to be dragged through the Federal Court for workers to receive their most basic entitlements.”

The legal claim seeks $250 million in compensation plus penalties against 400 McDonald’s operators. It is the 16th in a string of other existing Federal Court claims the union has against McDonald’s and 14 franchisees.

All workers covered under the Fast Food Award are entitled to an uninterrupted 10-minute paid break when working four or more hours.

In a statement, McDonald’s said it highly valued its employees and their contribution to the success of the company, and intends to fully defend the claim.

“McDonald’s believes its restaurants complied with applicable instruments, provided rest breaks to employees and were consistent with historic working arrangements,” the company said in a statement.

“Those arrangements have been known to the SDA for many years. The manner of taking breaks has not been challenged or raised by the SDA as a matter of concern throughout successive enterprise bargaining processes for new industrial agreements.

“We are very mindful of our obligations under applicable employment laws, including the former enterprise agreement and the Fast Food Industry Award, and continue to work closely with our restaurants to ensure employees receive all correct workplace entitlements and pay.”

The SDA is claiming McDonald’s was “systematic” and deliberately encouraged franchisees to deny paid rest breaks to workers.

“These Federal Court Claims are not just about compensation and penalising McDonald’s, it’s about sending a clear message that this systematic exploitation of young workers will not be tolerated,” said Dwyer.

Lucy, a 15-year-old McDonald’s worker, said the training she received, from a fellow 15-year-old, was substandard.

“If OH&S were to see it, I reckon they’d try and shut down all the Maccas,” she told 3AW on Friday morning.

“I have to work four-hour shifts to get a 10-minute break. So I’ve been getting put on three and a half hour shifts to avoid me having to get a break,” she said.

The claim against McDonald’s is one of the biggest in Australian history, according to the SDA.

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