Settlement requires McDonald's to improve worker safety after COVID outbreak

An Oakland McDonald's restaurant will be required to follow new worker safety guidelines and establish a worker safety committee as part of a settlement with employees who were told to use coffee filters and dog diapers as face masks during a COVID-19 outbreak last year.

At least 25 workers and their family members contracted COVID-19 during the outbreak at the Telegraph Avenue McDonald's last spring, including a 10-month-old infant.

The remaining non-managerial workers at the restaurant subsequently went on strike for 33 days, one of the longest employee strikes in McDonald's history.

According to the workers, who filed a public nuisance lawsuit in June 2020 over the outbreak, managers at the restaurant told cooks and cashiers to use coffee filters and dog diapers in lieu of actual face masks, failed to enforce social distancing and checked workers' temperatures before their shift with an inaccurate thermometer. 

"Last year when McDonald's tried to treat us like dogs, we didn't sit down or stay silent," said Angely Lambert, one of five plaintiffs in the lawsuit. "We joined together and fought for our dignity as human beings -- and we won."

As a result of the settlement, the McDonald's location will be required to follow various safety measures including offering employees paid sick leave, mandating physical distancing, providing proper masks and gloves, regularly disinfecting shared surfaces and conducting contact tracing when a case of the virus is confirmed in an employee.

As part of the worker safety committee, the restaurant's owner and managers will be required to meet with workers each month to discuss ways to maintain worker safety. 

"We will keep fighting to make sure that every worker, in fast-food and beyond, has a voice on the job," Lambert said.