Legal Roundup: McDonald’s Lack of PPE Lands Them in Court, FedEx Agrees to Settle EEOC Suit and More

The latest court decisions involving risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | May 28, 2020

McDonald’s Employees Claim Unsafe Working Conditions Amid COVID-19 

The Case: A group of five McDonald’s workers and four of their family members in Chicago have sued the fast-food giant.

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They claim employees weren’t given enough personal protective equipment or training to do their jobs safely as the restaurant stayed open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CNBC reports: “The plaintiffs allege that McDonald’s is not giving workers enough masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the virus. Employees at one location received masks and gloves only after striking, but they were given just one mask, which has to be worn each shift, according to the lawsuit.”

McDonald’s responded, saying “that personal protective equipment is in ‘ample supply’ for all restaurants, and more than 130 million masks have been distributed to employees,” according to CNBC.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status.

Takeaway: As the pandemic spread, employers were forced to quickly institute new safety protocols and procedures.

Were they able to get those procedures in place right away, especially while supplies were initially scarce? Did any companies drag their feet in getting started?

Those questions should be answered soon as experts expect plenty of lawsuits over unsafe work conditions in the near future. Meanwhile, lawmakers are attempting to shield employers from liability

Lawsuit: Absentee Ballots Unnecessary

The Case: A group of voters is suing Virginia election officials, claiming that absentee ballots are not necessary despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Associated Press reports: “State elections officials and Gov. Ralph Northam have encouraged voters to use absentee ballots for the June 23 primary to prevent the spread of the virus at polling places.”

But the lawsuit states that the social distancing measures that work in a grocery store can be just as effective in a polling station. The AP reports: “The lawsuit also says that a dramatic increase in absentee ballots ‘would be a logistical nightmare and increases the risk of disenfranchisement.’ ”

Virginia officials say absentee balloting is necessary for elderly or immuno-compromised residents, and reversing course after announcing the loosened restrictions would lead to voter disenfranchisement and confusion. A spokeswoman for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called the suit “thinly-veiled voter suppression.”

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: Conservatives appear to want to curb voting by mail to stop potential voter fraud. Liberals have been arguing that those actions are attempts at voter suppression.

Expect courts to decide some of these cases as the election draws nearer.

FedEx Ground to Pay $3.3 Million in EEOC Lawsuit

The Case: The EEOC filed suit against FedEx Ground claiming the company “denied deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers reasonable accommodations and that it discriminated against deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants to the package handler position,” according to an EEOC press release.

“Package handlers are responsible for loading, unloading, scanning and routing packages at the company’s distribution facilities.”

Scorecard: FedEx Ground has agreed to pay $3.3 million to settle the case.

The agreement “also requires FedEx Ground to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers with access to live and video remote American Sign Language interpreting, captioned videos, and scanning equipment with non-audible cues such as vibration,” according to the EEOC.

The company will also add new safety notification features to motorized equipment, such as colored lights to indicate emergencies. 

Takeaway: Employers must make accommodations for workers with disabilities.

Hospital Worker Claims She Was Fired for Tweets About Working Conditions

The Case: Sarah Cusick claims she lost her job at a hospital after discussing the facility’s apparent lack of COVID-19 safety precautions on social media.

She is now suing her former employer MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Superior Court.

The Washington Post reports that Cusick aired her grievances on Twitter and tagged the hospital in a post: “ ‘@MedStarWHC can we please follow @_DCHealth guidelines for eating in common areas?’ she wrote on March 16 under a video she posted of the busy cafeteria, according to images provided to The Post.”

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In another post, she tagged the district’s mayor.

Cusick claims that hospital management asked her to delete the posts and she complied — but was subsequently fired anyway. A representative for the hospital said that Cusick was not, in fact, fired. The representative also said the hospital has continually followed CDC guidelines on safety.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: Airing company grievances on social media is a surefire way to get on your employers’ bad side. But is it grounds for termination? That will be a determining factor in this case. Cusick’s lawyer said she’s essentially a whistleblower. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]