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Detroit fast-food workers stage walkout, demand higher wages

This blog is meant to shine a light on employment-related issues such as whistleblowing, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment and general employment disputes. Our practice involves representing workers in the Detroit area who have been wrongfully fired or otherwise mistreated in the workplace, and one form of mistreatment that we often see is workplace retaliation.

Consider the situation in our area's fast-food industry. Michigan's minimum wage is still only $7.40, hardly enough to support a family, and fast-food workers in Detroit recently walked out of their jobs in protest. In an event that organizers say drew at least 400 participants, employees of McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell and others turned out to demand that Michigan's minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour.

Workers have a right to organize and protest, but employers and other employees sometimes resort to retaliation. This kind of illegal behavior can take many forms, including unfairly increasing workloads and even physical abuse. If an employer retaliates or is aware of workplace retaliation, then the wronged worker may have grounds for a lawsuit.

To put the plight of local fast-food workers into perspective, consider that employment in fast-food is expected to expand more quickly in our region than employment in general, yet fast-food jobs only pay minimum wage or slightly above it. There are also twice as many fast-food jobs as there are auto-manufacturing jobs in the Detroit area. That situation suggests that many workers will not have their grievances heard unless they organize and perhaps take legal action.

To learn more about employment law and how it relates to specific cases, come back to this blog each week. We'll be providing updates on a wide variety work-related legal issues.

Source: Crain's Chicago Business, "Fast-food workers in Detroit walk off job, disrupt business," May 10, 2013

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