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McDonald's Faces Another Labor Suit

After McDonald's sold its first 100 billion hamburgers, the company stopped counting.

Now the fast-food chain is counting labor law cases it has settled. Last year, it was one.

This year, the business is facing a class action over a policy that keeps its workers from going to competing McDonald's franchises. That's a lot of employees who want to make more money, and they don't want french fries with that.

No "Poaching" Here

In a lawsuit filed in Chicago, Leinana Deslandes says she was making $12 an hour at one McDonald's restaurant when she applied to work at another one that offered $14.75. Deslandes said she was rejected because of an agreement that prohibits franchisees from "poaching" employees if they have worked for another McDonald's within six months.

"This agreement between and among McDonald's and McDonald's franchisees is a naked restraint of trade that is per se unlawful under Section 1 of the Sherman Act," the complaint says.

To be sure, it is offensive to mention "naked" and "McDonald's" in the same sentence. But what does the lawsuit really mean?

"This practice of 'owning' an employee not only affected Ms. Deslandes and other employees where their franchise owner will not 'release' them, but it artificially holds down the wages of all of the McDonald's workers that are being paid less than their true market value and are struggling to make ends meet," plaintiff's lawyer Richard McCune said in a statement.

Less Than $12 an Hour?

McDonald's is almost as famous for its hamburgers as it is for its low pay. It pays better than the average fast-food worker's wage in America, but at $12 an hour we're talking poverty level for a family of four.

The plaintiffs may find some sympathy in their case, but they may also have a hard time getting McDonald's to pay. After more than 60 years in business, the company settled its first class action with workers last year.

The Illinois-based company agreed to pay $1.75 million in back pay and damages, plus attorney's fees, to 800 employees at five restaurants owned by one franchisee. It's not a lot for a company that has sold billions of burgers, but there are about 375,000 U.S. employees and reasons for McDonald's to consider changing its "poaching" policy.

And no, they don't want an egg McMuffin with that.

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