A New Way Workers are Being Ripped Off

Pa. woman sues McDonald’s store owners over prepaid debit card used for wages

Natalie Gunshannon worked at a Shavertown, Pa., McDonald’s location when she learned that the franchise required employees to accept payment on a J.P. Morgan Chase payroll card. But the card, she contends, imposes fees on virtually every transaction, creating a monetary and physical barrier to her hard-earned cash.

Natalie Gunshannon holds a copy of a lawsuit filed by her attorneys against a McDonald’s franchise owner. The single mother, who worked briefly at a northeastern Pennsylvania franchise, said she was suing the owners after she was given a fee-laden debit card and told that she must use it to access her earnings.

MARK MORAN/AP

BY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, JUNE 17, 2013, 8:44 PM

Natalie Gunshannon holds a copy of a lawsuit filed by her attorneys against a McDonald’s franchise owner. The single mother, who worked briefly at a northeastern Pennsylvania franchise, said she was suing the owners after she was given a fee-laden debit card and told that she must use it to access her earnings.

She asked for paper – but all they offered was plastic.

A Pennsylvania woman is now suing the McDonald’s franchise that refused to pay her by check and instead insisted on employees using payroll debit cards.

“I’m looking for the pay I am owed and for them to understand there has to be an option,” Natalie Gunshannon, 27, told the Citizen’s Voice newspaper.

Gunshannon worked less than a month at the Shavertown McDonald’s location when she learned that the franchise required employees to accept payment on a J.P. Morgan Chase payroll card. But the card, she contends, imposes fees on virtually every transaction, creating a monetary and physical barrier to her hard-earned cash. Among the costs, according to her lawsuit: $1.50 for an ATM withdrawal, $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals and $1 to check the balance. There’s even a charge to pay a bill online or if the card is lost or stolen.

“When they work hard and earn their wages, why should they have to pay fees to collect their rightful wages?” her attorney, Mike Cefalo, told the Wilkes Barre Times-Leader.

Gunshannon, a single mother, made $7.44 an hour during her three weeks at the fast-food chain. Minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Coupled with the fees, Gunshannon says she was not making enough money. And when she asked to be paid another way, the franchise’s owner allegedly told her the card was the only option.

“I need to receive all the money I earn,” she said. “I can’t afford to lose even a few dollars per paycheck. I just think people should be paid fairly and not have to pay fees to get their wages.”

Gunshannon is one of several plaintiffs in the class action, filed last week, against Albert and Carol Mueller, the owners of 15 McDonald’s stores in Pennsylvania.

They declined to comment directly on the suit.

“We value our employees and everything they do for our organization,” the couple said in a statement. “We are committed to providing them the best possible work environment so they can deliver the fast, reliable service that our customers expect.”

But the lawsuit, in asking for payment, accuses the company of earning “ill-gotten gains contrary to justice, equity, good conscience and Pennsylvania law.”

Such a payment option has been embraced by large corporations like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Lowe’s Cos. Inc., The Home Depot and FedEx Corp. One figure estimates a switch to paperless payroll options would save a company 50% on such costs.

State law allows for the payroll method, but it’s unclear if it’s allowed to serve as the only option, as Gunshannon says was the case at McDonald’s.

“I tried to work with the company,” she said. “They refused. I tried the main office in Clarks Summit. They refused. I never activated the card. I refused the fees. I just want it to be fair.”

sgoldstein@nydailynews.com

 

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