Do You Want Pain With Your Fries? OSHA Investigating McDonald’s

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McDonald’s has never really been known for treating its employees well, per se. That being said, I’m not sure many of us realized quite how bad it is at some of the roughly 15,000 McDonald’s locations nationwide until this week when news broke that workers in 19 different states filed complaints with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

These complaints allege dangerous working conditions, lack of training, and hazardous equipment, among other faults. A particularly common complaint appears to be that workers are often burned by the equipment they have to handle on the job. Workers cited not having gloves when they are required to handle hot equipment, or that they’ve had to clean hot grills that haven’t been turned off.

A particularly disturbing story was told by one Chicago McDonald’s worker, Brittney Berry. She claims that she slipped and burnt her arm on a grill to the extent that the burn caused nerve damage. What’s even more worrisome is that she reports that her managers responded to the incident by telling her to put mustard on her arms, of all things. She stated:

My managers kept pushing me to work faster. The managers told me to put mustard on it, but I ended up having to get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. This is exactly why workers at McDonald’s need union rights.

While this sounds shocking and horrible, it’s evidently not that unheard of. Polling group Hart Research Associates conducted a survey last year of nearly 1,500 adult fast food workers about their injuries on the job. Almost 80 percent reported suffering from burns, and Berry’s manager apparently wasn’t too unique, because a third of those who suffered burns reported having a member of management tell them to put some sort of condiment–like mustard, mayo, butter, or ketchup–on it to treat the problem. In addition, the survey found that two-thirds of those workers had been cut by something on the job, 33 percent had been hurt while carrying some sort of heavy item, and 23 percent had fallen on a slippery surface. Overall, nearly 90 percent of the fast food workers surveyed had been hurt in some way. While that survey didn’t just focus on McDonald’s workers, but rather on the industry as a whole, it’s hard to imagine that the conditions at McDonald’s are significant outliers from its peer companies.

These complaints fit into a ongoing campaign for workers’ rights being waged against McDonald’s by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other groups. Called the “Fight for $15” campaign, it aims to up the minimum wage for McDonald’s workers as well as provide them with safer working conditions.

McDonald’s has of course responded to the allegations levied against it, bringing up the “Fight for $15” campaign in a rather dismissive way:

McDonald’s and its independent franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s Brand U.S. restaurants. We will review these allegations. It is important to note that these complaints are part of a larger strategy orchestrated by activists targeting our brand and designed to generate media coverage.

OSHA has confirmed that the allegations are being looked into, so whether they are actually true will be decided by the government. Either way, it creates a pretty grim picture of the working conditions at these branches, and a rather convincing argument for reform.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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