County orders probe of Boyle Heights McDonald’s after employees claim retaliation over voiced COVID-19 concerns

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has ordered an investigation into a McDonald’s in Boyle Heights after allegations from workers who voiced complaints about COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and claimed they were wrongfully terminated .

The investigation follows an Oct. 6 letter sent to the Board of Supervisors by Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721, that alleges the McDonald’s located at 1716 Marengo Street was not in compliance with “even the most basic COVID-19 safety precautions and [retaliating] against employees who raised safety concerns.”

Lizzet Aguilar, worked at the Boyle Heights McDonald’s and went on strike for four days in June, told KTLA through a translator on Wednesday that she was retaliated against after she raised concerns about management not requiring customers to wear masks while in the drive-thru, providing employees with masks and not enforcing social distancing.

“McDonald’s workers are essential workers, but the company has treated us as expendable as yesterday’s garbage,” said Aguilar, who is one of the strike leaders at the Marengo Street McDonald’s location. “We are happy to have the supervisors echo our calls for more accountability from McDonald’s.  If we are to truly stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, workers like us need more power in the workplace and the ability to report issues without fear of retaliation.”

Workers at the Marengo Street McDonald’s have filed seven complaints against their employer since June, officials said in a statement. At least six workers there have tested positive for COVID-19.

“Fast food workers, many who are people of color, have been on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “When the shelves at grocery stores were bare, many people relied on fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s for their meals. Yet, the alleged treatment these workers receive by their employers does not always reflect their essential role.”

R&B Sanchez DBA McDonald’s, the franchise organization of the company’s Marengo Street location, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that they are “deeply disappointed in these allegations which do not reflect what is actually happening in our restaurant.”

“We work to protect and provide for our people and serve the community during this difficult time,” the franchisee stated. “We have rigorous policies in place to ensure crew and customer safety, and we continuously work with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to ensure that we are taking all appropriate steps in compliance with all local Covid-19 regulations and best practices.

Tuesday’s motion by county officials also directed the Department of Public Health and the Economic Resiliency Task Force to investigate working conditions across the county’s fast-food industry, which officials say are at high-risk for superspreading incidents, as they serve about 2.5 million customers a day and employ roughly 166,000 workers.

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