Happy to hear there’s an investigation!
As a lawsuit against a local McDonald’s franchise gains national attention, federal authorities are investigating the company’s practice of forcing employees to be paid only by debit cards that come with an assortment of fees.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the franchise owners say the lawsuit’s contention that employees incur fees on all transactions is wrong and there are several ways workers could access their money for free.
West Pittston-based attorney Michael Cefalo recently filed the class action lawsuit in Luzerne County Court on behalf of Natalie Gunshannon, a Dallas Twp. woman who quit her job at the McDonald’s in Shavertown after the company issued her a debit card as pay and refused to pay her by check or direct deposit.
Days after the suit was filed and garnered national media attention, Mr. Cefalo said an investigator with the U.S. Department of Labor called his law office.
“They called me and told me the U.S. attorney has shown a particular interest in the facts of this case,” Mr. Cefalo said. “They were looking to see if there are any violations of federal statutes.”
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania asked the Department of Labor to “look into it to determine if federal action is appropriate,” Heidi Havens, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said.
“At this point, it is too soon to tell what specific action, if any, there would be,” Ms. Havens said.
Lenore Uddyback-Fortson, a Department of Labor spokeswoman, said the department was aware of the McDonald’s case, but could not confirm or deny if there is an active investigation.
“The agency has seen more of the use of debit cards to pay employees within the past several years as it is growing in practice,” Ms. Uddyback-Fortson said. “As long as the fees do not cause wages to drop below $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage, the practice does not violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
Ms. Gunshannon, 27, believes she was paid $7.45 per hour, but wasn’t sure because she said the rate was not on a pay stub she received.
The J.P. Morgan Chase payroll cards issued to local McDonald’s employees carry fees for nearly every type of transaction, according to the lawsuit, including a $1.50 charge for ATM withdrawals, $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals, $1 to check the balance, 75 cents per online bill payment and $10 per month if the card is left inactive for more than three months.
What the lawsuit fails to mention is that there are options to obtain money from and use the card for free, said attorney Matthew Hank, a Philadelphia attorney who represents the defendants, Albert and Carol Mueller of Clark Summit.