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A staggering 84 percent of New York City fast food workers reports having been a victim of wage theft, a new survey finds. Things are even worse for fast food delivery workers—100 percent of them report wage theft. The New York State attorney general is reportedly investigating pay practices in New York City fast food, and the new survey and report from Fast Food Forward offer a detailed picture of what that investigation might find.
Employers cheat workers out of wages in a number of ways, forcing them to work off the clock before or after their shifts or during break times, not paying overtime when workers work more than 40 hours a week, making delivery workers pay for equipment they're required to have to do their jobs, or just plain not paying the minimum wage. For instance, Shaquenna Davis, who works at a Wendy's in Brooklyn, is quoted in the report saying:
"My manager clocks me out early at 1:15 am every day. I have to keep cleaning after I'm clocked out to close the store. Five of us work for about a half hour every night that we aren't paid for, which adds up to about $80 a month for me since I make $7.25 per hour. It would mean a whole lot to me to have that $80 that Wendy's doesn't pay me. I could use that money to pay for school, food, or my metrocard."
Some workers put in 60 or 80 hours a week, but are scheduled to work at different restaurants owned by the same franchisee and paid separately for each restaurant to avoid overtime. Some workers are told to arrive at one time, then made to sit and wait until the restaurant gets busy before they're allowed to clock in. Paychecks are often late or bounce. These things are illegal.
Delivery workers, who are typically paid the New York tipped worker minimum wage of $5.65 an hour, face another set of common cheats. They're made to work non-delivery tasks so that they don't have the chance to earn tips, or not reimbursed for the cell phone minutes they use in the course of deliveries or for gas or bike helmets required to do their jobs. If they're robbed, they're forced to pay the amount stolen. These things are also illegal.
When wage theft surfaces as a problem, the corporate management of the chains—McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Papa John's, Domino's—almost inevitably claim the brand isn't responsible for the actions of franchise owners. The brand controls how the food is made, what the ingredients are, what uniforms the workers wear, basically everything top to bottom. But when it comes to workers being made to work off the clock or forced to pay for necessary work equipment or denied overtime pay, suddenly McDonald's or Wendy's just has no control over what goes on in those franchises. Yeah, right. If Domino's or Papa John's cared about obeying wage and hour laws remotely as much as they cared about the right number of pieces of pepperoni going on each pizza, things would be fixed. Not perfect, but the percent of workers not being paid for the work they did would would be a fraction of 84. And mind you, wage and hour laws are laws. The number of pieces of pepperoni on a pizza are corporate standards.