- Associated Press - Thursday, June 25, 2020

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - A California judge has ordered a McDonald’s in Oakland to stay closed until the court decides whether to order the owner to improve his health and safety practices amid the coronavirus.

Workers sued the owner last week over an outbreak that they say affected 35 people, including one employee’s 10-month-old child. The restaurant has been closed since May 26, when workers went on strike, the East Bay Times reported.

According to the public nuisance lawsuit, the restaurant’s owner failed to inform workers that they had been exposed to the virus and have them self-quarantine, and that as a result, they failed to implement social distancing or cleaning protocols.

The five employees requested a temporary restraining order, forcing the restaurant to remain closed until it complied with minimum COVID-19 health and safety standards and Oakland’s paid sick leave laws, the workers said in their lawsuit.

“In April, they gave us dog diapers and told us to make our own masks at work,” Yamile Osoy, an employee at the 4514 Telegraph Ave. location, who along with her 10-month-old son has tested positive for the coronavirus, said in a May 29 letter to CalOSHA.

Fellow worker Cindy Escalante said in the same letter: “My employer did not establish a plan to keep us safe, to sanitize and social distance in case one of us got sick or a customer was sick. We cleaned the restaurant every night, but not during the shifts before that. We were not instructed to sanitize high-touch surfaces regularly.”

The owner of that McDonald’s franchise, Michael Smith, could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Four workers at a McDonald’s in the city of San Pablo have also contacted CalOSHA, saying they believe their health was put at risk due to bad business practices.

Workers at the Oakland and San Pablo locations are not in a union, according to Fight for $15, an organization that advocates for fast food workers.

An Illinois state judge issued a similar injunction against a McDonald’s in Chicago after its workers filed a public nuisance lawsuit saying the company was failing to keep them safe.

“The potential risk of harm to these Plaintiffs and the community at large is severe,” Judge Eve Reilly of Cook County Circuit Court wrote in her order issued Wednesday. “It may very well be a matter of life or death to individuals who come in contact with these restaurants or employees of these restaurants on a regular, or even semi-regular basis, during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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