A former McDonald’s worker has filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against the fast-food company, alleging that it fired her for leading protests against McDonald’s for its failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maria E. Ruiz Bonilla, a diabetic, was at higher risk of permanent injury or death from COVID-19 than the other employees she worked with at the San Jose, California restaurant location. She had worked at the restaurant for 16 years before she was fired in July.
At the beginning of the pandemic, McDonald’s discouraged employees from wearing masks at work, going against guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended at the time. Ruiz led protests and walkouts against McDonald’s in March and April, before the company revised its policies. Ruiz claims that her hours were cut in April as a response to her protesting and talking to the media. In July, she was suspended and then fired.
Ruiz’s complaint states that her supervisors at the San Jose location responded to her activism and reports of safety violations with disciplinary action and “rudely and yelling at them.”
In response to the allegations, a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a statement that “The employee was terminated after a thorough review found that she falsely reported a safety violation, created and provided false evidence, and lied during the investigation.”