Soffietti, Johnson, Teegen, Argueta & Bawcum, LTD

A lawsuit filed in an Illinois circuit court on Nov. 21 by 17 fast food workers accuses McDonald's Corp. and several of its Chicago area franchisees of placing profits over employee safety. The workers say that a $6 billion project to redesign McDonald's restaurants is making already dangerous working conditions even more perilous. The 'Experience the Future" remodeling program is designed to make McDonald's restaurants more attractive and modern, but the workers say that the lower counters now being installed are making it easier for angry patrons to launch violent attacks.

The lawsuit claims that McDonald's and its franchisees are well aware of the dangerous working conditions in many Chicago restaurants and points out that workers call the city's police department for assistance more than 20 times every day. In recent months, McDonald's workers in Chicago have been violently assaulted, threatened by customers brandishing guns and had food and kitchen equipment thrown at them. One restaurant attack involved a worker who was urinated on by an enraged patron.

The workers are calling on McDonald's to rethink its modernization program and implement policies that would protect them instead. They want bathrooms that can be locked during cleaning, advertising materials removed from windows and drive-thru lanes that do not allow customers to enter restaurants. The workers say that these changes are especially needed at stores that remain open overnight.

Employers may face lawsuits of this kind when they fail to take action to address known workplace safety issues. Attorneys with experience in cases involving workplace safety issues may suggest filing a lawsuit as well as a workers' compensation claim when accidents or injuries are the result of gross negligence. When recklessness was so severe that serious death or injury became inevitable, juries might award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.

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