McDonald’s franchise settles case of Covid masks made from ‘dog diapers’ and coffee filters given to staff

The lawsuit alleges that at least 25 people were infected from an outbreak at the Oakland restaurant

Justin Vallejo
New York
Thursday 12 August 2021 16:34
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A McDonald’s franchise has settled a lawsuit in which workers claimed they were given masks made from dog diapers and coffee filters during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

In one of the more bizarre disputes from the early rush to control spread of the virus, five employees from a McDonald’s restaurant in Oakland, California, forced the restaurant to shut down in May 2020.

In a letter to the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, employee Yamile Osoy wrote that she and her 10-month-old son contracted Covid after the franchise failed to implement proper protocols. The lawsuit alleges that at least 25 people were infected from an outbreak at the Oakland restaurant.

“In April, they gave us dog diapers and told us to make our own masks at work,” Ms Osoy wrote.

The settlement does not involve an admission of wrongdoing from the California restaurant’s owner and operator, Michael Smith.

Mr Smith denied the allegations in a statement to The New York Times, and said that the company had begun implementing safety measures outlined in the settlement more than a year ago.

“We will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure that our stores remain as safe as possible,” he said.

The settlement reportedly included the establishment of a committee for management and workers to discuss compliance with mandated safety measures, social distancing, contract tracing and paid sick leave.

An attorney for the workers, BJ Chisholm, told the NYT that they chose not to sue the McDonald’s Corporation, which was not a defendant in the lawsuit, because they wanted to resolve the grievance more quickly with the franchise owner.

The attorney did not confirm whether a payout was included in the settlement but said the corporation should take responsibility for the safety of workers at all their stores.

“It’s clear McDonald’s could have helped creating conditions here that would have led to a safer work environment sooner,” she said.

McDonald’s said in a statement: “While we’re confident that any outlier conduct like that alleged in these complaints does not reflect what has broadly happened and continues to happen across 14,000 U.S. McDonald’s locations, we’re no less focused on ensuring that we have clear processes and the right resources to promote the safety and well-being of crew and customers.”

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