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Labor Board Tightens Reins on McDonald’s Labor Issues

Labor Board Tightens Reins on McDonald’s Labor Issues

Fast food workers may find themselves with a very different paycheck if this latest labor ruling goes into effect.

In most large food chain corporations, franchises are treated almost like small businesses, where menus may vary from location to location, and labor issues are treated at the franchise level. But for McDonald’s, that may soon be changing. The National Labor Relations Board just ruled that McDonald’s as a corporation is now responsible for the labor issues and employee conditions within their independent 3,000 franchises. This, experts argue, would be the first step toward unionization, and would go hand-in-hand with the nationwide “fight for 15,” or the strikes that have been going on across the country, where fast food workers have been pleading for a livable $15 an hour wage.

The recent ruling is currently being contested by McDonald’s, which claims that the relationship between corporation and franchise is not a joint one.

“McDonald’s believes that this decision changes the rules for thousands of small businesses, and goes against decades of established law regarding the franchise model in the United States,” Heather Smedstad , senior vice president Human Resources, McDonald’s, told The Daily Meal. “McDonald’s does not direct or co-determine the hiring, termination, wages, hours, or any other essential terms and conditions of employment of our franchisees’ employees.”

So what does this mean in the long run? Fast food companies will have to keep a more watchful eye on their franchisees unless they want to get caught up in one labor scuffle after another.

“McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the NLRB shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,” Micah Wissinger, an attorney who brought the case on behalf of McDonald’s workers in New York City, said in a statement.

18.48 GAIN LIFTS DOW TO 1,219.04

Stock prices soared yesterday in accelerated trading, apparently propelled by a belief that interest rates would continue to decline despite the recent increase in the nation's basic money supply.

At the final bell, the Dow Jones industrial average had risen 18.48 points, to 1,219.04. On Monday, the widely followed market barometer climbed more than 10 points.

The two other major market indexes, which are much more broadly based than the Dow average of 30 major corporations, also finished higher. The exchange's composite index of 1,500 common stocks advanced 1.19, to a record 95.58, while Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 2.11, to 165.54.

The market's advance was across the board, with stocks that rose in price on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday outnumbering issues that fell by more than a 5-to-2 ratio. Volume on the Big Board rose to 109.9 million shares from 85 million shares on Monday.

''Investors are apparently convinced that the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee will not tighten its credit reins and drive up interest rates despite the recent surge in the nation's money supply,'' said Michael Metz, vice president of Oppenheimer & Company. The committee met yesterday, but its decisions will not be disclosed until next month.

Last Friday, the Fed reported a $7 billion rise for the latest reporting week in M-1, a key measure of the nation's money supply that measures currency and checking deposits readily available for spending. This brought the annual growth rate of the money supply to 14.6 percent so far this year, or well above the growth target of 4 to 8 percent set by the Federal Reserve. Sharp Money Growth a Threat

As yields on securities and savings deposits have declined and the economy has recovered from recession, both institutional investors and individuals have switched funds into stocks. But overly rapid growth in money supply could threaten new inflation. To prevent this, the Fed could decide to restrict credit availability, a move that would push up interest rates and make investments in stocks less attractive.

Despite this possibility, Serge J. Enni, vice president of Edward A. Viner & Company, said that investors were confident that the Fed would not permit interest rates to rise because ''it would kill the economic recovery.''

The market discounted a Labor Department announcement just before the opening yesterday that consumer prices were up sixth-tenths of 1 percent in April, the largest monthly inflation increase since last June, when they rose 1.1 percent.

The gain in the Dow average yesterday was its largest daily rise since April 26, when it climbed 22.25 points, to 1,209.46, the first time it crossed the 1,200 level.

McDonald’s Wrongful Termination Lawsuit to Test NLRB Decision

When the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel decided last summer that McDonald's Corp. could be treated as a joint employer of its franchisees' workers in labor complaints, left unclear was just how far-reaching the legal implications would be.

A new wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by 10 former McDonald's workers may help answer that question. WSJ's Annie Gasparro and Melanie Trottman have more on the test case:

Local media in Virginia reported in May, when the allegations surfaced, that Mr. Simon denied firing employees based on race. He said he strives "to maintain an environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted.”

McDonald’s on Thursday said it hadn’t seen the lawsuit but would review the matter carefully.

Recent NLRB moves could potentially shake up the relationship between big retailers and their franchisees. In addition, the NLRB last month issued complaints naming McDonald’s -- along with its franchisees -- for allegedly violating rights of restaurant workers who participated in activities to increase their wages and working conditions.

Loose reins on nurses in drug abuse program

The morning of her second day at Starpoint Surgery Center in Studio City, nurse Melony Currier was found in the parking lot, passed out in her car.

Once roused, she was escorted to a drug-testing facility to provide a urine sample. In the restroom, she injected an anesthetic she had stolen from the surgery center, according to state records and a Starpoint official.

Currier, a participant in the state’s confidential recovery program for impaired nurses, had failed repeatedly -- and spectacularly -- at rehabilitation, the records show.

Over 4 1/2 years, she’d been discovered high in her car at a Hollywood hospital, stolen anesthetics at a San Gabriel Valley hospital, been convicted of burglary after taking more drugs from the same hospital and flunked a drug test.

Yet it wasn’t until Currier shot up at the drug-testing facility in September 2006 that she was kicked out of the recovery program. Though her evaluators labeled her a “public risk,” the California Board of Registered Nursing didn’t impose discipline until 1 1/2 years later, leaving her free her to work without restriction in the interim, the documents show.

As the state begins overhauling regulation of California’s 350,000 registered nurses, one of the board’s most touted programs stands out as seriously troubled: drug diversion.

For years, nursing board officials have described diversion as a haven where good nurses can kick bad habits -- without losing their licenses or their reputations.

But an investigation by The Times and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica found participants who practiced while intoxicated, stole drugs from the bedridden and falsified records to cover their tracks.

Since its inception in 1985, more than half the nurses who have entered the program haven’t completed it. Some who fail at diversion are deemed so incorrigible that the board labels them “public safety threats” (sometimes referred to as “public risks”).

Based on a review of all nurses who faced disciplinary action since 2002, The Times and ProPublica identified more than 80 such nurses.

Dire as they sound, the labels do not trigger immediate action or public disclosure. Some nurses that the board considers dangerous continue to treat patients.

“These healthcare professionals may be in the operating room. They may be serving you when you’re sick,” said George A. Kenna, an addiction researcher at Brown University. “You just don’t want that sort of person who’s impaired” at the bedside.

Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced most of the nursing board and demanded wholesale reform after The Times and ProPublica reported that it took more than three years on average to investigate and discipline nurses. The newly appointed board meets for the first time Sunday and Monday.

Confronted with reporters’ findings on the diversion program this week, State and Consumer Services Secretary Fred Aguiar answered nearly every question by saying the program was part of a “broken system.” Aguiar, whose agency oversees professional licensing, promised it would be on the new board’s agenda.

In a separate interview, Carol Stanford, who has directed the diversion program since 2006, vigorously defended it. She said reporters were focusing too heavily on nurses who failed and not enough on those “saved” by diversion.

“You can pick apart any program,” she said. “But what about the good? What about the other side of that story?”

Stanford said the program, which nearly 1,400 nurses have completed since 1985, had a graduation rate of 59% last year.

“Of course, nothing’s perfect,” she said. “We’re working on whatever issues might be going on.”

Diversion, embraced in various forms by many regulators, is intended to protect both professionals and the public.

Nurses enroll voluntarily, sometimes after a complaint, sometimes before they land in trouble. They agree to a host of conditions, such as submitting to random drug tests, seeking treatment and pledging not to work without permission.

In return, the board suspends the disciplinary process, keeping secret the nurses’ participation in the program. With an annual diversion budget of nearly $3 million, it relies on an outside contractor to run the program day to day.

Because the program is confidential, it is impossible to know how many enrollees relapse or harm patients. But a review of court and regulatory records filed since 2002, as well as interviews with diversion participants, regulators and experts, suggests that dozens of nurses haven’t upheld their end of the bargain. And oversight is broadly lacking.

Nurses must promise they won’t work until they’re sober, yet the board doesn’t confiscate their licenses, nor does it ensure that addicts have kept their word.

Some covertly get jobs and steal drugs. The board typically doesn’t find out until the nurse gets in trouble again.

Even after the program expels nurses and labels them public safety threats, the board takes a median 15 months to file a public accusation -- the first warning to potential employers and patients of a nurse’s troubles. It takes 10 more months to impose discipline, based on the Times/ProPublica review of disciplinary records filed since 2002.

Labor and delivery nurse Tiffany Fahrni, who originally enrolled in the program after stealing and using painkillers, said she was kicked out and labeled a “public risk” in December 2005 because she had worked without permission. But the board didn’t file an accusation against her until January 2009.

During that time Fahrni logged at least two arrests on drug-related charges, though she says she did not work as a nurse.

“They terminate you. They say you’re a danger to public society . . . then it takes three more years for them to do anything,” she said.

The nursing board “should have been all over me like a hawk,” Fahrni said. “An addict -- you got to watch them like a baby.”

Julianne D’Angelo Fellmeth, administrative director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego, said every “public risk” case should be pursued within five days.

Nurses “treat how many dozens of patients?” she said. With such delays, “the chance for harm to a patient is exponentially multiplied.”

In retrospect, Melony Currier may not have been a good candidate for diversion.

She first landed in trouble on Nov. 8, 2001, when she was arrested for stealing Demerol from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. (She later told board investigators that she’d stolen drugs every day for months.)

Nearly two weeks after her arrest, while working at Planned Parenthood in Van Nuys, she was found collapsed in the bathroom, injecting herself with the general anesthetic propofol. Two days after that, she returned to Providence St. Joseph and stole more of the drug, board documents say.

She was later convicted of misdemeanor theft in the Van Nuys case and petty theft and drug possession in the Burbank case.

Currier, then known by the last name Dietrich, was allowed into diversion in February 2002. The program bars nurses who have been convicted of selling drugs or who have caused patient harm or death. Also rejected are those previously disciplined by the board for drug use or mental illness, and those previously kicked out of any diversion program.

None of this applied to Currier. When the program finally expelled her in 2006 -- after the five relapses -- her case entered the clogged pipeline of ordinary complaints. There it was investigated outside public view.

A month after Currier was ejected, according to board documents, she went to Providence St. Joseph, where she’d been arrested five years earlier. Posing as an employee, she said she’d come to collect drugs for outpatient surgery.

When questioned, she “fled,” board records say, driving 10 miles to Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale. Again posing as an employee, she stole two cases of propofol, according to court and board records.

Two days later, on Oct. 18, 2006, Currier was arrested when she returned to Verdugo Hills for more.

The board filed a public accusation against Currier in March 2007-- nearly 5 1/2 years after the agency first learned of her drug problems.

When the board settled the case in 2008, Currier’s license was suspended for a year and she was put on probation. As part of the settlement, she admitted the allegations.

Currier is now free to practice with restrictions. She has declined to comment on her case.

Asked about delays in cases like this, in which a nurse has been deemed a public risk, diversion manager Stanford said: “That nurse still has due process. . . . You cannot go after a registered nurse in this state for falling out of treatment.”

In some other states -- Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and Ohio, for instance -- nurses are booted from diversion much more quickly and disciplined sooner, according to interviews with regulators there.

“You can’t stay in the program after one relapse, even one,” said Julia George, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Nursing.

Leonard LaBella, Verdugo Hills Hospital’s chief executive, said he was dumbfounded that the California board had not moved against Currier sooner.

“They might be overwhelmed,” he said. “But this one, I think, might have floated to the top.”

At the moment, the main person responsible for protecting the public from a drug-addicted nurse in California is the drug-addicted nurse. It’s a risky honor system.

Anette Ekelius, who landed in diversion for allegedly stealing drugs in April 2001, said she knew the rules -- she couldn’t work without the board’s permission. She also knew there was nothing to stop her. “I thought, ‘This is good,’ ” she recalled. “ ‘I need to work. I need to pay my bills.’ ”

Ekelius got an unauthorized job as a temporary nurse at Torrance Memorial Medical Center that September, according to court records. She later pleaded guilty to stealing Demerol on her first -- also her last -- day. The hospital reported her to the board, but she remained in diversion.

Months later she took another job without permission, she said in an interview. At Corona Regional Medical Center, she appeared high and was accused of leaving a critically ill patient unattended, board records say.

Two days later, in February 2002, she was kicked out of diversion. She got another job and stole drugs before the board filed an accusation against her. Her license was revoked in August 2004.

“I was a good nurse, but not when I was using, obviously,” said Ekelius, who said she is now sober.

Diversion manager Stanford said she doubted there were more than a handful of such cases but conceded she has no way of knowing for sure.

California regulators well know that diversion programs can fall dangerously short.

In recent years, audits of the state medical board’s program found that relapsing doctors weren’t always removed from practice, surprise drug tests often weren’t surprises and designated monitors sometimes left doctors unwatched.

The medical board closed the 27-year-old program last year.

At legislative hearings on the matter, nursing board officials insisted that their program did not have the same problems and was “very successful.”

But the board often defines success as completing the program. By that measure, it has lagged behind the medical board. Historically, about three-fourths of doctors who entered diversion finished it.

And the nursing board does not track nurses once they complete the program. Scott Bertrand, a Claremont nurse anesthetist, relapsed three months after graduating. In August 2005, he was caught injecting himself during a surgery with the painkiller fentanyl, which was intended for the patient. Afterward he admitted using opiates every workday for 10 to 12 weeks, according to his board disciplinary record.

Given a second chance at diversion, he was kicked out, according to his board record. Last year the board suspended his ability to work as a nurse anesthetist for one year and put him on probation.

Reached twice by telephone, Bertrand said he was busy and never called back.

The board almost certainly misses other cases like Bertrand’s, addiction experts said.

“I’d want to know what their relapse rate is,” said Dean Dabney, a criminal justice expert at Georgia State University, who has written about impaired practitioners. “That’s your true indicator.”

In this week’s interview, Stanford initially stuck to her overall assessment of her diversion program as “a success.”

Pressed on the flaws identified by reporters, however, she said officials were taking steps to “tighten it up.”

One change in process, she said, is a requirement similar to that in New York -- in which new enrollees in diversion inactivate their licenses. Another would allow the state to investigate complaints even while nurses are in diversion, as the state of Washington does. A third would expedite legal action on cases in which nurses are considered “public safety threats.”

“You’re raking me over the coals,” Stanford said to reporters. “I’m trying to work with the program to enhance it.”

Chad Matheny’s newspaper obituary said he died unexpectedly at his Cathedral City home May 19, 2008.

Just 32, Matheny was described as a loving husband and father, a musician and singer, a dedicated nurse and caregiver. Left unsaid: Matheny’s death came after a years-long battle with drugs.

It was a fight the nursing board knew he was losing.

An autopsy found that he had died of an accidental overdose: of powerful painkillers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Some of the drugs appeared to have been obtained by phoning prescriptions in under the name of the physician he worked for, the autopsy report said.

Matheny had been booted from the diversion program two years earlier, and the board had labeled him a public threat, saying he had a “complete lack of insight into addiction.” But, with disciplinary proceedings pending, he could still work -- and score drugs. He died in bed, beside his wife.

Matheny’s mother, Gaytha Minor, said the nursing board failed her son. But she is a veteran nurse herself -- and what most angers her is that the board didn’t step in to protect the public.

Civil Rights & Employment

Cohen Milstein’s Civil Rights & Employment practice includes civil rights and employment law visionaries and innovators, who have litigated landmark civil rights and employment disputes, including Keepseagle v. Vilsack (D.D.C.) and Dukes v. Walmart (N.D. Cal.) before the highest courts in the nation and who continue to actively shape civil rights and employment law in the United States. We have received numerous accolades for our work, including:

  • Lawdragon 500 – “Leading Plaintiff Employment Lawyers” (2018 - 2021)
  • The National Law Journal – “Elite Trial Lawyer Award – Employment Rights – Finalist” (2018, 2021)
  • The National Law Journal – “Elite Trial Lawyer Award – Civil Rights – Finalist” (2021)
  • Legal 500 – “Labor and Employment Disputes: Plaintiff” (2018 - 2020)
  • Law360 –“MVP – Employment Law” (2018)
  • The American Lawyer –“A Giant of the Plaintiffs Bar” (2017)

We bring an unshakeable commitment to serving our clients vigorously and passionately for as long as the representation may require.

Our Practice

We represent individuals from all walks of life and across all industries, including agriculture, entertainment, finance, healthcare services, manufacturing, retail, technology, transportation, and other “white collar,” “blue collar,” and “pink collar” industries.

  • Employees: We represent employees at all levels of employment – across all industries – who have been subjected to discrimination and unlawful bias in the workplace or who have been denied pay for all of the work they performed.
  • Individuals: We also represent groups of individuals who have been denied access to places of public accommodation, housing, and/or equal access to credit because of unlawful bias and discriminatory practices.

On behalf of our clients, we pursue civil rights and employment class actions in federal courts across the nation, including the U.S. Supreme Court, that often involve cutting-edge issues related to the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII, Equal Pay Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as novel joint employer liability issues and procedural issues related to class certification and class arbitration.

The scope of our Civil Rights & Employment practice includes, but is not limited to:


  • Age
  • Disabilities and reasonable accommodations
  • Gender, pregnancy, and family responsibilities
  • Race and national origin
  • Sexual orientation

Wage and Hour:

  • Donning and doffing
  • Overtime
  • Pre-shift and post-shift time
  • Worker misclassifications
  • Seasonal workers and H-2B visas

Our People

Cohen Milstein’s Civil Rights & Employment practice includes civil rights and employment rights leaders, visionaries, and innovators, who are actively shaping the law in the United States, including:

  • Joseph M. Sellers, Chair of the Civil Rights & Employment practice, is recognized as “A Giant of the Plaintiffs Bar” (American Lawyer, 2017). In addition to arguing seminal civil rights and employment class actions before the Supreme Court and successfully litigating many class action cases all the way through trial, he helped draft the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 – cornerstones of today’s civil rights and employment laws.
  • Christine E. Webber, a “Best Lawyers in America,” is the Co-Chair of National Employment Lawyers Association’s Class Action Committee, the nation’s leading employment rights law association. Ms. Webber is highly regarded for orchestrating large, data intensive class and collective actions.
  • Kalpana Kotagal, winner of Law360’s 2018 “Employment MVP”, is the co-author of the Inclusion Rider, a seminal employment contract addendum, made famous by Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand in her 2018 Best Actress acceptance speech, that facilitates greater diversity hiring practices.
  • Anita F. Hill, whose role in ending workplace harassment is nothing less than historic. In 1991, Ms. Hill, then the former Special Assistant to the Chairman, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Special Counsel to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, testified before Congress on the discriminatory and sexually harassing behavior of her former EEOC and DOE supervisor and then Supreme Court Justice nominee, Clarence Thomas. Ms. Hill continues her public advocacy work and is also a University Professor at Brandeis University.
  • D. Michael Hancock is the former Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division. As a senior DOL employee for 20 years, he has helped enforce a wide range of workplace protections, from minimum wage, overtime, child labor and the Family Medical Leave Act, to guest worker and other employment-based immigration programs.

Our Cases

We have litigated some of the largest, most significant civil rights and employment matters in recent U.S. history, including:

  • Keepseagle v. Vilsack(D.D.C.): A more than decade-long, nationwide class action on behalf of Native American farmers and ranchers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its systematic race-based discrimination and denial of access to low-interest rate government loans, resulting in a historic settlement of $760 million.
  • Dukes v. Walmart(N.D. Cal.): A high-profile gender-based discrimination class action involving more than 1.6 million women that went up to the Supreme Court in 2011 and further defined class action law. The litigation continues and was profiled in the May 2019 issue of TIME, “Nearly Two Decades Ago, Women Across the Country Sued Walmart for Discrimination. They’re Not Done Fighting.”

We have helped conceive of ground-breaking innovations to help foster diversity, equity, and inclusion:

  • The Inclusion Rider: A novel contractual hiring addendum made famous by Frances McDormand in her 2018 Best Actress acceptance speech. The addendum stipulates that an employer tackle implicit bias of minorities in its hiring process by interviewing or auditioning minorities for open employment opportunities so that the work place (and the products or services rendered), authentically reflect the world in which we actually live, while protecting creative sovereignty.

We continue to pursue novel, cutting-edge work in civil rights and employment litigation, including:

Employment Class Actions

  • Breen v. Chao(D.D.C.): On April 28, 2021, the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration agreed to a record-breaking $43.8 million settlement to end a 16-year-old lawsuit alleging discrimination against 670 former Flight Service Specialists who live in nearly all 50 states. The settlement, the largest ever reached in an age discrimination lawsuit involving the federal government, concludes this ligation. Cohen Milstein and co-counsel represented of Flight Service Specialists in this age discrimination lawsuit.
  • Alvarez et al. v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.(D.N.J.): On February 26, 2021, Chipotle Mexican Grill agreed to a $15 million settlement to resolve novel wage-and-hour claims brought by Chipotle apprentices across the country. The case followed a new rule issued by the Obama Administration that expanded overtime eligibility, and it claimed this rule went into effect notwithstanding an injunction enjoining the Department of Labor from enforcing it. The settlement is pending court approval.
  • Sanchez et al. v. McDonald's Restaurants of California Inc.(Sup. Crt. of Cal., Los Angeles Cnty.): On October 7, 2020, the Court granted final approval of a $26 million settlement in this precedent-setting Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) wage-and-hour class action bench trial. As a part of the settlement, McDonald's has agreed to revise some of its timekeeping practices and provide training sessions on wage policies for managers and hourly workers at corporate-run restaurants in California. Cohen Milstein and co-counsel represented the hourly, non-managerial workers at corporate-owned McDonald's restaurants throughout California.
  • Jock et al. v. Sterling Jewelers Inc.(AAA S.D.N.Y.): A Title VII and Equal Pay Act class action against one of the largest jewelry retailers in the U.S., whose CEO resigned in July 2017 following extensive, front page press coverage of not only the lawsuit, but evidence of executive-level sexual misconduct toward women. The case was also the subject of an April 2019 New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Company That Sells Love to America Had a Dark Secret.”
  • Ralph Talarico v. Public Partnerships(E.D. Pa.): A FLSA collective action affecting more than 10,000 “direct care” workers and involving novel questions about when a company is a third-party joint employer and therefore liable to direct care workers. A series of race-based employment discrimination class actions against Personnel Staffing Group dba MVP Staffing, a national temporary job placement company. Plaintiffs, all of whom are African American, claim that MVP’s offices in Cicero, IL colluded with at least seven of its clients to prevent African-American workers from working at their plants and companies. All cases involve novel joint-employer issues.
  • Cynthia Allen, et al. v. AT&T Mobility Services LLC (N.D. Ga.): Cohen Milstein and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project are litigating a putative Title VII employment discrimination class action against AT&T Mobility LLC for violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as individual Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Family and Medical Leave Act claims.

Civil Rights Class Actions

  • Gender-Affirming Surgery Coverage by Aetna: With the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Cohen Milstein led a pivotal access-to-healthcare class action on behalf of four transgender women. On January 26, 2021, Aetna, one of the largest health insurance companies in the United States, agreed to expand its coverage to include gender-affirming surgery, including, in this matter, breast augmentation. As a part of the pre-litigation agreement, TLDEF and Cohen Milstein worked with Aetna to update its clinical policy bulletin to cover such medically necessary surgery for transfeminine members. An American with Disabilities Act and Chapter 121 of the Texas Human Resources class action against BarBri, Inc. – host of the country’s largest attorney bar exam preparation course. Plaintiffs, all of whom are blind law students, claim that critical components of BarBri’s bar exam prep offerings, including its mobile application, website and course materials, are not accessible to blind or sight impaired law students. In January 2018, BarBri agreed to change their practices as a part of a settlement. Two putative class actions involving American with Disabilities Act claims against Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Plaintiffs, who are deaf, allege in both cases that the schools’ online content fail to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts and other educational materials.
  • Long Island Housing Services, Inc. v. NPS Holiday Square LLC(E.D.N.Y.): A Fair Housing Act, New York State Human Rights Law, and Suffolk County Human Rights Law class action against NPS Property Corporation, a prominent Long Island-area property management company operating at least nine apartment complexes in Suffolk County. Plaintiffs, Long Island Housing Services, Suffolk Independent Living Organization, and individuals with disabilities, claim NPS intentionally and systemically discriminates against people with disabilities and those who rely on subsidized sources of income due to their disabilities.

Who's the boss?

After a period of stability under CEO Jim Skinner, McDonald’s top job has been a hot seat for nearly a decade. Here’s a look at who’s taken a turn in the corner office.

Jim Skinner, 2004–12

Origin: The longtime McDonald’s exec took the reins after former CEO Jim Cantalupo died of a heart attack and his successor, Charlie Bell, underwent treatment for cancer.
Big accomplishment: Talent and leadership development.
Exit: Skinner retired on top in 2012 after 41 years with the company. He oversaw eight years of consecutive same-store sales growth and a more than doubling of profits.

Don Thompson, 2012–15

Origin: The engineer by training took a job at McDonald’s designing robotics for food transport and cooking equipment before moving into operations.
Big accomplishment: Launching the company’s digital strategy.
Exit: Performance suffered during Thompson’s tenure, with the company in 2014 reporting its first year of negative same-store sales in more than a decade.

Steve Easterbrook, 2015–19

Origin: Easterbrook joined McDonald’s in the U.K. in 1993 he was running all of Europe by 2010. After a stint elsewhere, he returned as global chief brand officer in 2013.
Big accomplishment: All-day breakfast increasing the company’s speed.
Exit: Easterbrook added more than $50 billion in market cap but was fired for sexting with an employee. The company is suing him after alleging new details came to light.

Chris Kempczinski, 2019–present

Origin: The onetime consultant and former Kraft exec joined the company in 2015 as part of Easterbrook’s push to bring outside talent into the insular organization. He helped architect and execute the company’s Bigger Bolder Vision 2020 plan and was named CEO when Easterbrook was fired.
Big accomplishment: Steering the company through the pandemic U.S. operators had record cash flow in 2020.

Inflation, Food Shortage, Gas Crisis…Will it Get Worse?

All that can be said is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Yes, it could get worse, but it could also get better. The truth is this all depends on what we as a country do. We need truckers to deliver the supplies, we need people not to panic buy because it only makes it worse, and we need companies to push out more products which requires workers! The bottom line is we have to open up the economy and get things moving in the United States as well as in other parts of the world. We don’t solely rely on our economy being up and running, but other countries’ economies being up and running as well.

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Every Iowan deserves to have access to high quality health care when and where they need it. Whether you’re dealing with the trauma of an accident or the joy of childbirth, it’s not just the quality of the team that matters – it’s the proximity.

Fired McDonald’s CEO gets to keep $37 million in stock awards

Former McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Stephen Easterbrook, who was fired for having a relationship with an employee, was allowed to keep stock awards worth more than $37 million as well as $675,000 severance and health insurance benefits.

Easterbrook, 52, will get to keep unvested stock options worth about $23.5 million and possibly benefit from grants of restricted shares tied to the company’s performance that are worth roughly $13.8 million at their target payouts, according to calculations by Bloomberg. He’s also eligible for a prorated bonus for his work in fiscal 2019.

McDonald’s board voted Friday to oust Easterbrook after investigating the relationship, which was consensual but violated company policy. The move was announced Sunday.

McDonald’s stock fell $5.28, or 2.7%, to $188.66 a share on Monday. The stock is up 5% this year.

The termination was categorized as “without cause,” the Chicago-based firm said Monday, signaling that the transgression wasn’t severe enough to bar him from receiving exit payments. His health insurance benefits will continue for 18 months.

Not all CEOs who lose their jobs under similar circumstances fare so well. Brian Krzanich, who was fired by Intel Corp. last year after the board learned he had a consensual relationship with an employee, surrendered equity awards worth tens of millions of dollars and received no severance.

As part of his separation agreement, Easterbrook promised to cooperate with the company in future investigations and legal matters, and to refrain from working for a direct competitor for two years.

The reason Easterbrook got severance pay was probably because he was determined to have violated a company policy, not broken sexual harassment law, said Lynne Anne Anderson, a partner at Drinker Biddle who advises companies and represents them in misconduct cases.

McDonald’s declined to elaborate on Easterbrook’s severance and departure beyond its public statements and filings.

Nell Minow, vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, a shareholder consulting firm, said the severance is problematic.

“A middle manager who did that would be escorted out with all his belongings in a shoe box, and it sends a terrible message — not just to the employees and the investors and consumers but to society about how there are two rules: One for the powerful, one for the not,” Minow said.

Easterbrook’s successor, Chris Kempczinski, enters the job with a $1.25-million salary and annual target bonus of $2.13 million, according to the filing. It didn’t disclose details about long-term incentive compensation, which constitutes the bulk of most CEO pay packages. Easterbrook’s annual salary was $1.35 million.

McDonald’s top human resources executive, David Fairhurst, left the company Monday. In a statement posted on his LinkedIn page, Fairhurst said he had decided “the time has come for me to move on to my next career challenge.”

Mason Smoot, a senior vice president who oversees strategic alignment and staff, stepped into the HR role on an interim basis.

The rapid shake-up shows how executives’ behavior is under a microscope in the #MeToo era — and transgressions that may once have been considered minor are no longer swept aside, even for star performers. At McDonald’s, which for years has been a target of activists because of its wage and labor practices, the scrutiny is especially intense.

“If the CEO is allowed to engage in policy violations on this topic, the message to employees and to other stakeholders is that McDonald’s is not really committed to providing those protections promised in the policies,” Anderson said. “The level of conduct that is being required from executives in this #MeToo era is to set the tone and to lead by example.”

Easterbrook, who took the reins in 2015 amid a sales slump and oversaw market-beating share gains, put McDonald’s in an uncomfortable position — even though the relationship was consensual.

As a bellwether for the fast-food industry, McDonald’s has become a principal target of groups like Fight for $15 and the American Civil Liberties Union, which say McDonald’s has tolerated workplace harassment and ignored safety issues. They say the company has failed to prevent misconduct including groping, inappropriate comments from supervisors and retaliation for speaking up.

The company has countered criticism by revamping policies to include training for workers to deal with harassment and starting a hotline for victims, including other measures. But critics, including Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have said McDonald’s moves “fall short” and send “the wrong message” by merely “encouraging” the franchisees who run most of the chain’s stores to adopt new policies, rather than requiring them to.

“What the research shows is basically if you’re in a position of power over somebody else, you’re really bad at recognizing the power you wield over them and how hard it is for them to say no to you,” said Vanessa Bohns, an organizational behavior professor at Cornell University. Such relationships can also undermine how the more junior employee is perceived by co-workers, she said, and fuel concern about favoritism at work.

In departing, Easterbrook acknowledged that the relationship was a mistake. McDonald’s said Sunday that the board determined he had “demonstrated poor judgment” by engaging in the consensual relationship.

McDonald’s, which has been navigating pressure from politicians on its wages, has been trying to revamp its image. The new training and anti-harassment measures create “a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected,” Easterbrook said in a May letter to Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who had sent an inquiry to the company amid a rise in claims of sexual harassment and misconduct.

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