The owner of seven McDonald’s franchise locations in Brooklyn will pay $1 million in restitution to its employees and more than $92,000 in civil penalties in a settlement after the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protections found he was violating labor laws, the DCWP announced on Monday.
George Mitchell, who operates McDonald’s restaurants from Sunset Park and Kensington to Bedford-Stuyvesant repeatedly violated the city’s Fair Workweek Law, according to the department — even after being investigated and forced to pay up after breaking the fast-food specific regulations in 2019.
The Fair Workweek Law — first signed into law my then-mayor Bill de Blasio and expanded in 2021 — ensures that fast-food workers are fairly paid and treated by mandating employers to provide regular weekly schedules, provide those schedules to employees at least two weeks in advance, and give employees the chance to decline extra work rather than adding hours to their schedules without notice.
A DCWP investigation found that between February 2019 and December 2020, Mitchell failed to pay employees “premium pay” for last-minute schedule changes; required that employees work back-to-back “clopening” shifts, where they close one night and open the next morning, without warning; and did not give current employees the chance to work extra hours before hiring new workers.
The franchise owner also retaliated against two employees who tried to exercise their rights under the Fair Workweek Law and prevented workers from using their paid sick time, in violation of the Earned Sick Time Act, according to the settlement. The two workers who were fired after trying to wield the law will receive a whopping $23,500 of the payout, and the rest will be distributed among 509 other McDonald’s employees.
“Today, we are sending a clear message to any employer who fails to come into compliance,” said DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga in a statement. “We will not allow employers to repeatedly defy the city’s laws. Fast food workers deserve fair treatment in their workplaces, and we will ensure that they receive justice and restitution.”
Within 30 days of the court order, Mitchell will be required to update his restaurants’ written rules and procedures to fully comply with the FWWL and the Earned Sick Time Act and will name a “compliance officer” who will take note of all efforts to implement the law and will receive feedback and complaints from employees.
The settlement marks the second time Mitchell has reached an agreement with DCWP. In 2019, employees at his Atlantic Avenue restaurant in Prospect Heights complained to the department about working conditions – and he was forced to pay $34,865 in employee restitution and nearly $4,000 in penalties. When workers at the same location said the restaurant was still not in compliance with labor laws, DCWP decided to investigate all seven of his restaurants and stepped up their penalties.
Late last year, the department settled its first case under the new “Just Cause” law, which says that restaurants cannot fire or significantly reduce the hours of fast-food workers without good reason. In that case, the owner of a Mill Basin Subway sandwich shop was ordered to pay $2,200 in lost wages to two employees who were fired after calling out.
In August, the city secured a massive $20 million settlement after suing Chipotle Mexican Grill for violating local labor laws over the course of three years.
“Fast food workers deserve to have our fair scheduling rights, that we organized with the union to win, respected,” said Tommy Nicolas, a worker at a Michell McDonald’s franchise location, in a statement. “Unpredictable schedules on short notice hurts not only us, but our families who depend on us. Michell McDonald’s Group and other companies may try to get away with breaking the law, but we fast food workers won’t give up on standing together, educating ourselves on our rights and speaking up.”
DCWP has the right to follow up on the consent order at any time, a department spokesperson told Brooklyn Paper, and will investigate any further complaints they may receive.
“We will not tolerate anyone looking to take advantage of workers,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “This settlement not only offers relief for employees whose rights were violated, but also sends a clear message that if you flout the City’s worker protection laws, we will hold you accountable. I’m lovin’ protecting workers’ rights.”