CLARKS SUMMIT — A local McDonald's franchisee is now offering employees options for how to receive their pay, effective immediately.
Albert and Carol Mueller, owners of 16 local McDonald's restaurants, are now offering paper checks and direct deposit to employees to receive their pay.
The Muellers were sued by a former employee who asked for these same options, but was denied and told she had to use a company supplied debit card to be paid. The cards were issued by J.P. Morgan Chase.
Christina Mueller-Curran, owner operator and daughter of Albert and Carol Mueller, said the decision had nothing to do with the lawsuit filed by attorney Michael Cefalo on behalf of former employee Natalie Gunshannon.
“If people believe that the decision to change this policy had nothing to do with our lawsuit, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell them,” Cefalo said Monday.
The debit card carries with it several fees and Gunshannon felt she could receive less than minimum wage if she used the debit card and incurred the fees. She opted to quit her job.
“Well that's nice,” Gunshannon said when told of the policy change. “It would have been nice if they did this when I suggested that, but they didn't listen to me. I could have kept my job. Now it seems like damage control.”
Gunshannon, a 27-year-old single mother, said she is looking for another job.
Cefalo said the policy change doesn't have any effect on the lawsuit. He said more than 150 people have either called or emailed his office with complaints similar to Gunshannon's — that they have been forced to use a debit card to get paid with no other options.
“My client has indicated now that they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they are starting to pay people the way they should have — by check,” Cefalo said. “All of the people who have contacted us have been damaged by what has been done.”
Cefalo said he doesn't know what the resolution is.
“We'll just wait and see what happens,” he said. “They are going to have to face their accusers. And we'll let a jury decide what should be done.”
Cefalo said the Muellers can issue all the statements they want, but getting paid with a debit card “just isn't fair.” He said the story has captured national attention.
Employees have options
Mueller-Curran said the company operates 16 McDonald's restaurants in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Lehigh counties. She said the company employs about 700 people. In Luzerne County, the Muellers operate McDonald's in Wyoming, Shavertown, Mountain Top and Hanover Township.
She said all employees will receive a selection form, on which they will designate and authorize the payment option they want.
“An important part of our value system has always been to provide our employees with convenient, free, and immediate access to their pay,” she said. “By expanding the options our employees have to receive their wages, they will be better able to meet their individual financial needs and preferences.”
Mueller-Curran said it became apparent that “some of our employees” wanted options on how they were to be paid other than the debit card.
“The lawsuit that has been filed had nothing to do with this decision,” she said. “Our number one priority is our employees. We want to make them happy.”
Mueller-Curran said the company had always paid by paper check then switched to the debit card because many of the employees did not have bank accounts and were being charged to cash their checks. She said the debit card was thought to be a better method of payment. She noted that many employees have not complained about the debit card method and the employees' wages can be accessed several ways without incurring fees.
She said her parents have been operating McDonald's franchises for more than 40 years in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She said they have given back to the communities they serve and remain committed to those communities.
“We've always been committed to giving back to the community,” she said. “We love the communities we operate in, our employees and our customers.”