DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Fast food giant McDonald’s has been slapped with several class action lawsuits on behalf of tens of thousands of workers in Michigan, California and New York.

The suits claim McDonald’s systematically “steals” earned wages from employees — requiring employees to work “off the clock,” shaving hours off of time cards, and refusing to pay earned overtime.

The suit also alleges McDonald’s requires workers to pay for company mandated uniforms which reduces their wages to below minimum wage.

Attorney Joe Sellers, who represents the Michigan plaintiffs, talked specifically about one of his clients: a woman who commutes 90 minutes each way to a McDonald’s in Detroit.

“She’ll show up at the store and be told not to clock in but to wait,” Sellers said. “And she’ll have to wait until that labor cost percentage goes below a set number, and then she’s allowed to clock in. Or, during the day, people will be told to go outside in the parking lot or go off the clock in the restaurant until the labor cost goes down.”

The suits come amid growing attention on the country’s widening wealth gap and the pay practices in the fast-food industry. While the practices outlined in the suit are prevalent across low-wage sectors, lawyers said they targeted McDonald’s because it’s an industry leader.

Taken together, the suits seeking class action status could affect roughly 30,000 workers, lawyers said in a conference call arranged by organizers of the recent fast-food protests. The suits seek back pay and other damages, although specific amounts weren’t named.

Named in the suit are two franchise owners who operate 21 restaurants in Detroit. The vast majority of the more than 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. are owned by franchisees.

“Our clients are among the most economically vulnerable in our society, and they work for a company that generated more than $28 billion in revenue last year, and earned more than $5 billion in profits,” Sellers said.

Workers named in the suits were referred to attorneys by the group behind the recent fast-food protests that have captured national media attention. The Service Employees International Union has been providing financial and organizational support to the push.

A representative for BerlinRosen, the public relations agency coordinating media efforts for both the fast-food protests and the lawsuits, said the timing of the announcement on the same day as Obama’s overtime proposals was coincidental.

One of the suits was filed in New York, two were filed in Michigan and three were filed in California. An amendment to an existing lawsuit in California was expected to be filed Thursday.

In a statement, McDonald’s says it is investigating the allegations and is committed to the well-being of its workers.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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