Fast-food workers accuse employers of wage theft

by: Jeff Dubois Updated:

Loading

SEATTLE - Thursday morning on the steps of Seattle City Hall, more than a dozen workers told reporters they’ve been robbed by the fast-food restaurants they worked for.

Five of the workers have filed complaints with the Seattle Police Department, accusing the restaurants of wage thefts, a generic term for illegal activities, like employers shorting workers on their paychecks, making them work longer hours than they pay them for, or not giving employees work breaks.

Among the local fast food restaurants accused of wage thefts are a Subway near Northgate Mall, a Qdoba on Capitol Hill, and a Taco Bell in Ballard.

One employee said her manager at the Ballard Taco Bell would clock her out at the end of her shift, then make her work anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours longer, unpaid.

"I estimated about $800 of money was stolen from me,” said Caroline Durocher, “that could have been (for) food and bills, and my phone bill that I often can't pay."

According to the National Employment Law Project, which organized today's news conference, Seattle employers could be stealing as much as $100,000 a week from local workers.

Wage theft is illegal in Seattle has been for a couple years, but there have never been any prosecutions.

So Thursday, Mayor Mike McGinn, the Seattle Police Department, and the City Prosecutor announced they will be taking a closer look at wage theft complaints filed by employees.

Unrest has been growing among fast-food workers for some time.  Walkouts on May 30 caused the closure of some Seattle-area fast-food restaurants.  

In a follow-up to that protest, on July 11, fast-food workers filled the Seattle City Council chambers to press their demand for a living wage of $15 an hour, but they also told of employers who refused to pay them for all the hours they had worked.