A former Newnan, Georgia McDonald’s manager has sued the owner-operator of the franchise accusing her of falsely accusing her of theft and having her prosecuted after she complained to the U.S. Department of Labor about overtime violations and attempted to organize other employees to recover their unpaid wages.
In her suit, the employee alleges that in November 2016 she complained to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division regarding unpaid overtime wages at her McDonald’s store at 1425 Highway 29 South in Newnan, Georgia. After speaking to the federal authorities, she then began gathering evidence of the overtime violations and communicating with other employees in the store about joining together to fight the wage theft.
According to the lawsuit, the franchise owner, Muriel Powell, learned about the manager’s efforts in early January 2017 and on January 11, 2017, contacted the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office to report an alleged theft of over $2,000 from the store’s safe the previous week. Powell showed investigators a cell phone video of security system footage that she alleged showed the plaintiff taking bags that had money in them. But Powell did not show the investigators footage of the plaintiff actually removing the bags from the safe or any evidence of what the bags actually contained.
Based on Powell’s allegations, the manager was charged with felony theft and was arrested months later. She spent three days in jail before finally being released. Despite multiple requests from the investigators, Powell never turned over the original security footage and finally claimed it had been destroyed. The prosecutor ultimately refused to prosecute the case and the charges were dropped in April of 2018.
In her lawsuit, the manager claims that Powell falsely accused her of theft in retaliation for her efforts to obtain back wages for herself and other employees, and that as a result of the malicious prosecution for theft she “suffered lost wages, depression, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of liberty.” She is also seeking unpaid minimum wages, overtime wages, liquidated damages, and damages for lost wages she suffered as a result of not being able to find other work while charged with a crime.
Retaliation for asserting the right to minimum and overtime wages can take many forms. Most commonly, employees are simply terminated when they bring illegal pay practices to light. Other times, they may have their pay reduced, shifts cut, or their employer may attempt to blackball them and prevent them from finding other work. The Fair Labor Standards Act protects employees who have been retaliated against for demanding to be paid properly and allows them to recover back wages, liquidated damages, and attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.
The plaintiff in this case is represented by attorneys Charles R. Bridgers and Matthew W. Herrington of the law firm DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. The case is captioned Brown v. Golden Partners, LLC et al., 1:19-cv-00016-TCB (N.D. Ga.).