McDonald's Sued Over Paying Workers With Fee-Laden Debit Cards

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In a handful of cities, some fast-food workers have protested in recent months, agitating to have their pay nearly doubled to $15 an hour. But Natalie Gunshannon wasn't one of them. A McDonald's worker at Shavertown, Pa., just 24 miles from Scranton, she says that she initiated a class-action lawsuit against the McDonald's franchise for a simple reason: "I am looking for the pay I am owed."

Hired on April 24, Gunshannon discovered that the Shavertown McDonald's franchise pays workers only with JPMorgan Chase debit cards -- and requires workers to cover the debit fees, according to a report by, a local news outlet.

Gunshannon reportedly was to be paid $7.44 per hour, a little more than the minimum wage. But as the reports, the payroll card had several fees, including $1.50 for ATM withdrawals, $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals, $1 per balance inquiry, 75 cents per online bill payment and $15 for lost or stolen card.

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Gunshannon asked the franchise owner's office if she could be paid by check or direct deposit, and was told no. So the 27-year-old single mother of one refused to sign the debit card, quit and contacted a lawyer, who filed a class-action suit on Thursday. "I can't afford to lose even a few dollars per paycheck," Gunshannon told the local paper. The franchisee owns 17 McDonald's franchises, according to reports.

Mike Cefalo, her attorney, told the TimesLeader that the franchise's action was another case of "corporate greed" and a violation of state law, which, he said, gives workers the choice to be paid by check or cash. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary and punitive damages.

A spokeswoman for the franchise told news organizations that it hadn't seen a copy of the suit yet, but stressed "we value our employees" and "we are committed to providing them the best possible work environment." [UPDATE June 21, 2013, 7:30 am: McDonald's corporate spokesperson released a statement, stressing that franchisees are "independent," making "their own decisions around employment matters. McDonald's requires all franchisees to operate their businesses in accordance with all local, state and federal laws."]

According to ADP, a well-known payroll processor, payroll debit cards can benefit workers who don't have bank accounts. "If you don't have a bank account you must often rely on the expensive check cashing stores," ADP says in its literature, adding debit cards are more secure than carrying "large amounts of cash, which can be subject to loss or theft."

In 2012, the Consumers Union and National Consumer Law Center created guidelines for using these payroll debit cards. Top on their list: "Employees must be able to access their full wages, at least once each pay period, without cost."

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