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Area McDonald’s Fined $125,000 for Firing Workers Who Spoke Out About COVID-19

A Boyle Heights franchisee illegally fired four workers for reporting unsafe working conditions, state officials say

McDonald’s at 1716 Marengo Street in Boyle Heights, California
Worker protest at McDonald’s at 1716 Marengo Street in Boyle Heights
Rashida Holmes
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

On Friday, California’s Labor Commissioner cited and fined a Boyle Heights McDonald’s franchisee $125,913, after ownership was caught violating labor laws during the ongoing pandemic. Namely, the location’s owners were said to have illegally fired four employees after they reported concerns about unsafe working conditions and unfollowed COVID-019 protocols.

This is the same McDonald’s that was investigated by the LA County Board of Supervisors in mid-October, when employees first accused management of not complying with basic COVID-19 safety precautions. These complaints launched an investigation into fast food worker conditions throughout LA County, and ultimately spurred on last week’s fine.

Marengo Street McDonald’s workers filed seven similar complaints against their employer from March to October 2020, after six workers tested positive from the coronavirus. At the time, employees accused management of not enforcing a face-covering policy with customers at the drive-thru, not requiring social distancing, and of not providing employees with masks and other personal protective equipment. The workers also said management did not inform workers of exposure to the virus among staff.

The four employees received termination letters and subsequently filed a retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office in September, along with Cal/OSHA, and the LA County Department of Health. This McDonald’s location is operated by R&B Sanchez, Inc., fronted by owners Robert Sanchez and Beverly Sanchez. One Brian Sanchez, who served as the franchisee human resources officer, were also named on the citation.

Labor commissioner Lilia García-Brower issued citations totaling $125,913 in wages and penalties against McDonald’s franchisee R&B Sanchez, Inc. The citations include $45,193 in lost wages, $720 in interest, and $80,000 in retaliation penalties. R&B Sanchez must also reinstate the fired workers to their jobs, remove any negative references from their personnel files, and post information on the citations and violations in the workplace.

According to labor group Fight for $15, Los Angeles County fast-food restaurants serve approximately 2.5 million customers per day and employ approximately 166,000 workers, and are deemed essential workers during the ongoing public health crisis, which does make them eligible for vaccination beginning early next month.