A former employee at a Pennsylvania McDonald's has filed a class-action suit against the franchise's owners, claiming that she was refused a traditional paycheck and instead issued a payroll debit card riddled with outrageous fees.
Natalie Gunshannon, 27, worked at a McDonald's chain in Shavertown, Pa., for about a month beginning in April. In a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday in Luzerne County, Pa., she accuses franchise owners Albert and Carol Mueller of running a payroll debit card "scheme" and violating the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act.
"I'm looking for the pay I am owed
and for them to understand there has to be an option," Gunshannon, who is seeking an unspecified amount in punitive damages, told the Citizens' Voice.
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The J.P. Morgan Chase payroll card carried fees for nearly every type of transaction, according to the lawsuit, including a $1.50 charge for ATM withdrawals, $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals, $1 to check the balance, 75 cents per online bill payment, and $10 per month if the card is left inactive for more than three months.
Gunshannon claims she approached her manager and asked for a paper paycheck but was told, "We only pay on the card." Later, she says she was given an ultimatum: "If you don't activate the card, there is no way for us to pay you. You can activate the card or we can't pay you."
State law requires employee wages to be paid in "lawful money," but the definition of "lawful money" is unclear. The state Department of Labor and Industry and state banking regulators have endorsed payroll cards as a legal form of wage payment, according to the American Payroll Association.
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The association did, however, send a letter to state regulators in 2009 saying it was not clear whether employers in the state could "implement purely electronic wage payment programs" without offering employees the option of a paper paycheck, according to the Citizens' Voice.
But employers can, a court ruled, make purely electronic wage payments a condition of employment.
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